Friday, January 18, 2008


When Waugh wrote Decline and Fall the British Empire was in its last throes. At the height of its global expanse, and financially flush, no Englishman could have imagined in the 1920s that within two decades it would all be over and Anthony Burgess would be writing essays about how losing an empire wasn't so bad.

Allow me to say that as badly deserving of satire as the British Empire was at the time Waugh begain lampooning its pretentions, our current American Empire is in much more dire straights.

Paul Pennyfeather is expelled from Oxford for running around the common without trousers, which of course is forbidden for students of theology. Penniless, he goes to teach at a remote private school in Wales despite having nothing to teach, and then has a series of adventurous misadventures which are at times hilarious.

I suppose Waugh had some inkling what was coming down the pike for his beloved homeland, because he called his book what he called it, after all. I often get the same inkling when I'm teaching in America. At any rate, this is a good novel, and is the second good novel by Waugh I've read. I read The Loved One years ago, and liked that one even more.

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