July 22, 2012

Ishmaelia: From Evelyn Waugh's "Scoop"

Perhaps my favorite novel is Evelyn Waugh's 1938 journalism satire Scoop, and my favorite stretch of prose might be Scoop's serene and cheerful description of the Republic of Ishmaelia (mostly Ethiopia, with a dash of Liberia):
Ishmaelia, that hitherto happy commonwealth, cannot conveniently be approached from any part of the world. ... Desert, forest, and swamp, frequented by furious nomads, protect its approaches from those more favored regions which the statesmen of Berlin and Geneva have put to school under European masters. An inhospitable race of squireens cultivate the highlands and pass their days in the perfect leisure which those peoples alone enjoy who are untroubled by the speculative or artistic itch.
Various courageous Europeans, in the seventies of the last century, came to Ishmaelia, or near it, furnished with suitable equipment of cuckoo clocks, phonographs, opera hats, draft-treaties and flags of the nations which they had been obliged to leave. ... None returned. They were eaten, every one of them; some raw, others stewed and seasoned -- according to local usage and the calendar (for the better sort of Ishmaelites have been Christian for many centuries and will not publicly eat human flesh, uncooked, in Lent, without special and costly dispensation from their bishop). Punitive expeditions suffered more harm than they inflicted, and in the nineties humane counsels prevailed. The European powers independently decided that they did not want the profitless piece of territory; that the one thing less desirable than seeing a neighbour established there was the trouble of taking it themselves. ... A committee of jurists, drawn from the Universities, composed a constitution, providing a bicameral legislature, proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote, an executive removable by the President on the recommendation of both houses, an independent judicature, religious liberty, secular education, habeas corpus, free trade, joint stock banking, chartered corporations, and numerous other agreeable features. ... Mr. Samuel Smiles Jackson from Alabama was put in as the first President; a choice whose wisdom seemed to be confirmed by history, for, forty years later, a Mr. Rathbone Jackson held his grandfather's office in succession to his father Pankhurst, while the chief posts of the state were held by Messrs Garnett Jackson, Mander Jackson, Huxley Jackson, his uncle and brothers, and by Mrs Athol (nee Jackson) his aunt. So strong was the love which the Republic bore the family that General Elections were known as 'Jackson Ngomas' wherever and whenever they were held. These, by the constitution, should have been quinquennial, but since it was found in practice that difficulty of communication rendered it impossible for the constituencies to vote simultaneously, the custom had grown up for the receiving officer and the Jackson candidate to visit in turn such parts of the Republic as were open to travel, and entertain the neighbouring chiefs to a six days' banquet at their camp, after which the stupefied aborigines recorded their votes in the secret and solemn manner prescribed by the constitution.
It had been found expedient to merge the functions of national defence and inland revenue in an office then held in the capable hands of General Gollancz Jackson: his forces were in two main companies, the Ishmaelite Mule Taxgathering Force and the Rifle Excisemen with a small Artillery Death Duties Corps for use against the heirs of powerful noblemen. ... Towards the end of each financial year the General's flying columns would lumber out into the surrounding country on the heels of the fugitive population and returned in time for budget day laden with the spoils of the less nimble ...
Under this liberal and progressive regime, the Republic may be said, in some way, to have prospered. It is true that the capital city of Jacksonburg became unduly large, its alleys and cabins thronged with landless men of native and alien blood, while the country immediately surrounding it became depopulated, so that General Gollancz Jackson was obliged to start earlier and march further in search of the taxes; ... there was, moreover, a railway to the Red Sea coast, bringing a steady stream of manufactured imports which relieved the Ishmaelites of the need to practice their few clumsy crafts, while the adverse trade balance was rectified by an elastic system of bankruptcy law. In the remote provinces, beyond the reach of General Gollancz, the Ishmaelites followed their traditional callings of bandit, slave, or gentleman of leisure, happily ignorant of their connexion with the town which a few of them, perhaps, had vaguely and incredulously heard.

A few notes:

- "Inland revenue" is the British equivalent of "internal revenue," the IRS.

- "Death duties" are taxes on inheritance.

- The first names of the Jacksons are drawn from progressive British celebrities, such as Victor Gollancz, fellow-traveling head of the Left Book Club; Samuel Smiles, Victorian reformist and author of the bestseller Self-Help; the suffragette Mrs. Pankhurst; and the numerous Darwinian Huxleys. The Manders were a family of industrialists and reformers, a sort of Wolverhampton version of the Wedgwoods. The Rathbones were a family of Liverpudlian ship owners, reformers, feminists, and movie stars. Bunny Garnett was a bisexual conscientious objector prominent in the Bloomsbury literary circle. I'm not sure who Athol was.

The opening chapter of John Updike's 1978 novel The Coup describes the fictional African People's Republic of Kush in comparably dazzling prose. The Coup's one-paragraph acknowledgment note lists Waugh as a source, so I imagine Updike was directly inspired by this passage from Scoop.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/white-elephants-and-termites-revisited/

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/62/62manny.php

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93870954

I never understood the maddening Farber.

John Seiler said...

Sounds like the America of the Bushes.

San Franciscan non-monk said...

So it's full of references to contemporary political figures now unknown? Sounds like Shakespeare's humor, i.e. not much fun.

Graham Asher said...

"So it's full of references to contemporary political figures now unknown? Sounds like Shakespeare's humor, i.e. not much fun."

You have to build up a store of general knowledge... in short, become well-read. I found Waugh hard to follow in 1971, when I was 14, but appreciate him far more now. I recently re-read Brideshead and found it a far better book than it was in the last century.

Anonymous said...

San Franciscan non-monk said...

So it's full of references to contemporary political figures now unknown? Sounds like Shakespeare's humor, i.e. not much fun.


I'm going to play the odds and assume you're a man when I ask you this: aren't you a little embarrassed to make a post like this? Aren't you embarrassed to come off like a spoilt child who expects the world to entertain him without any effort on his own part? If it's any comfort at least I can tell you there seem to be a lot of people out there just like you.

Black Death said...

But where are Peachy and Danny?

Anonymous said...

Doesn't at all sound like Ethiopia except for geography (Red Sea).

First Italo-Ethiopian War?

The Ethiopian Army won a decisive victory over the Italians at Adwa during the 1890s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Adwa

Anonymous said...

Athol is probably referring to this guy's wife: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stewart-Murray,_8th_Duke_of_Atholl

Anonymous said...

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Kylie said...

If you like this, Greene's A Burnt-Out Case and Our Man in Havanna are probably right up your street. Not quite as wacky and free-wheeling but lots of sly humo[u]r.

Come to that, so is The Third Man. Greene's jibes at Americans, alphabet agencies, writers, etc. are subtle but hilarious.

John Cunningham said...

Great post, Steve! it has been 25 years since I read Scoop, must give it a look again.

kaganovitch said...

I'd guess athol jackson is named after the Duchess of Atholl ,Katherine Ramsay-Murray. Although she was a conservative mp she was nicknamed "the red duchess"for her anti-fascist activities (entirely unfairly;she was a vehement critic of the ussr and socialism)

Anonymous said...

I read Scoop about a hundred years ago, long before I had any inkling of the underpinnings of what would become HBD. I vaguely remember finding Waugh's depiction of his African state to be embarrassingly unenlightened. I clearly need to read the book again.

- A Solid Citizen

pat said...

I was in summer camp (National Guard summer camp) when a fellow trooper in the barracks threw down this paperbeck he was reading. He said something like - "Dumbest book I've ever read". I picked it up and was enchanted. Transported. Here was a writer who understood the Army as I was living it.

That book was "Catch-22".

From that day on I felt special. I was one of those who "got it". I was part of the cognoscentii.

That is until - on your recommendation - I tried to read Scoop. It seemed stupid. I didn't get it. My self image plummeted.

My happy days of contented self appreciation were over. I now saw myself as one of the rubes.

Thanks.

Albertosaurus

Kolya said...

It should be Atholl, not Athol. The Duchess of Athol was a Conservative MP at the time, but known in the press as the "Red Duchess" because of her visit to Spain during the civil war.

Anonymous said...

"Black Mischief" has a similar setting. Normally when encountering two such similarly-themed books from the same author I'd complain (was he out of ideas?), but in his case the style and the humor are so good throughout that I'd have read 30 novels on that topic if that was how many of them he wrote.

Who's Afraid of Leonard Woolf? said...

Perhaps Athol was this woman (give or take an "l"). There's even a Rathbone mentioned!

Auntie Analogue said...

From beyond his grave Waugh is describing any number of U.S. cities and towns - Detroit, East St. Louis - run by negroes elected to those municipalities' offices, whose treasuries they and their appointed cronies, behind their shameless serial transparent kabuki ritual acts, promptly and thoroughly plunder along with monies drawn lavishly from state and federal treasuries in behalf of the "victims" whose neverending plight at the whim of white racists forms the raison d'être for insatiable demands for Neverending Reparations! All of which is, of course, duplicated in grand lavish style in the U.S. nation-building of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Waugh's unrepentant social climbing ought to blind no one to his superlative unerring capacity to discern and describe in fearless and laugh-out-loud amusing prose the lines which distinguish civilization from kleptocracy, thugocracy, barbarism, and savagery. Of course Waugh's apsiration to higher civilization is nowadays déclassé - and downright doomed, as willful deliberate descent in fact and in outward form to the gutter has, since the 1960's, become all the rage.

Those who deplore Waugh's deployment of the names of his contemporary kabuki actors to his dimwitted highfaluting characters ought to bear in mind that "there is nothing new under the sun." Were he today alive Waugh would draft into service of his scathing prose character names drawn from the monickers of today's "progressive" and Leviathan luminaries, so that we should laugh until our spleens throb painfully at characters such as Lady Condoleeza de Haut-Nez, Lord Gore, Archbishop Farrakhan Sharpton, Baroness Obama, Sir Georg von Soros, Lord Portcullis (Bill Gates), Lord Chief Justice Kennedy-Roberts, Grand Duchess Palin of the Inland Passage, Viceroy Bremer of Kut & Run, Lord Murdoch Jaune-Tabloid, Dame Oprah de Gratuité, Emperor Yeswekenya d'Obama, Field Marshall Lord Casey Powell-Petraeus McMullen, David Axelrove, Contessa Napolitano di Ciechi, Prime Minister Blare, Prime Minister Camearound, Treasury Secretary Hjalmar von Shacht-Geithner, and so on. You do, I pray, catch the drift.

DaveinHackensack said...

"You have to build up a store of general knowledge... in short, become well-read."

Being well-read never hurts, but that passage is funny even if you don't get the British references. As is the whole novel.

Also worth reading is Waugh's nonfiction book on Ethiopia, on which Scoop is based, Waugh in Abyssinia.

Crawfurdmuir said...

See also Waugh's "Black Mischief," set in Azania (clearly patterned on Abyssinia). It is my favorite of Waugh's novels, and in a better world would have been dramatized for "Masterpiece Theater" as was "Brideshead Revisited."

Anonymous said...

Making fun of Africans is unsporting. Especially if you are an HBD-er and believe that they are born this way and can't help themselves.

Anonymous said...

http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/2011/11/13/homeschool-will-go-mainstream/

with online resources, more doable than ever. Also, how about virtual robot artificial teachers beamed to the monitor of every kid?

WAITING FOR T-1000... T for 'teacher'.

If kids refuse to learn, they will be terminated.

Anonymous said...

http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/2011/11/13/homeschool-will-go-mainstream/

with online resources, more doable than ever. Also, how about virtual robot artificial-intelligence teachers beamed to the monitor of every kid?

WAITING FOR T-1000... T for 'teacher'.

If kids refuse to learn, they will be terminated.

Anonymous said...

"Making fun of Africans is unsporting. Especially if you are an HBD-er and believe that they are born this way and can't help themselves."

But we can't hep masef.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXavZYeXEc0

Adam N. Eave-Lynn said...

An important but little-discussed aspect of SCOOP: Waugh kept it clean, in a deliberate attempt to get back into the Church's good books after he was condemned by Ernest Oldmeadow, of the Catholic journal THE TABLET, who was known as a mouthpiece for Cardinal Bourne, the leader of British Catholics. Waugh reacted in public with disdain, but obviously accepted what Oldmeadow said if you compare SCOOP (clean) with BLACK MISCHIEF (cannibalism, extra-marital sex, mockery of non-Catholic Christianity, etc). Note that one of Waugh's most prominent supporters during l'affaire Oldmeadow was the "Catholic artist" Eric Gill, who defended Waugh's right to artistic freedom. It was not known at the time how far Gill had taken his own experiments in freedom:

In another biography (Eric Gill, London: Faber and Faber Ltd.: 1990), author Fiona MacCarthy reports that his sexual obsessions included adultery, incest, and pedophilia. Gill had sexual intercourse with his two sisters and sexually abused two of his three daughters. Yes, this is what MacCarthy states, and I found no refutations to these statements.

http://www.traditioninaction.org/HotTopics/j005htGill_Distributism_Odou.htm

Gill also experimented sexually with animals. So I would suggest Oldmeadow was a better representative of Catholic orthodoxy vis-a-vis Waugh's writing. The Catholic church may have overseen or inspired some of the world's greatest art, but it has never been a friend of free speech and Waugh, like Gill, was not a good Catholic: he was too anarchic and independent-minded. Orwell said this about the novel and totalitarianism:

Orthodox Catholicism, again, seems to have a crushing effect upon certain literary forms, especially the novel. During a period of three hundred years, how many people have been at once good novelists and good Catholics? The fact is that certain themes cannot be celebrated in words, and tyranny is one of them. No one ever wrote a good book in praise of the Inquisition. Poetry might survive in a totalitarian age, and certain arts or half-arts, such as architecture, might even find tyranny beneficial, but the prose writer would have no choice between silence or death. Prose literature as we know it is the product of rationalism, of the Protestant centuries, of the autonomous individual.

http://orwell.ru/library/essays/prevention/english/e_plit

Cervantes is a part counter-example, but not a refutation of what Orwell says.

Steve Sailer said...

A good way for Orwell to have proved his thesis would have been to write better novels that were better than Waugh's and Greene's.

Anonymous said...

It's been a while since I read the novel, but the part of Scoop at which I remember laughing hardest is the section with the London representative of the "White" forces of Ishmaelia (the quasi-Fascists opposing the quasi-Communist "Red" forces). If memory serves, he swears up and down that a bunch of Nazi researchers visited his country, measured some skulls, and personally guaranteed that the Ishmaelians were lost Nordic Aryans (ink-black skin notwithstanding).

I found it funny because the Nazis actually did occasionally do that sort of thing with people they were hoping to make into allies- they recruited a whole SS Division of Bosnian Muslims after deciding that they were "pure Aryans". I can't track down the specifics, but I vaguely remember hearing once that German attempts to woo Iran during the 1930s included a delegation of scientists who declared the Iranians to be "true Aryans". The hilarious irony of Germans telling Iranians that they are Aryans seems to have been lost on them.

Anonymous said...

"Making fun of Africans is unsporting. Especially if you are an HBD-er and believe that they are born this way and can't help themselves."

Most people here aren't really interested in HBD. Most relish the inferiority of blacks and other people. Most people here you can guess aren't the winner types of people. They are shutins in svigor or whiskey.

Adam N. Eave-Lynn said...

A good way for Orwell to have proved his thesis would have been to write novels that were better than Waugh's and Greene's.

Well, he was half-way there: ANIMAL FARM and NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR (partly a satire on Catholicism)* are much better than anything Greene ever wrote and better than some of Waugh's weaker efforts, like HELENA and VILE BODIES. Plus, Waugh and Greene were converts and weren't good Catholics. This article also dismisses Orwell's thesis:

Whenever there was a chance to have a shot at Catholicism in his writing, George Orwell could always be relied on to take aim and discharge both barrels. With the grim vision of Vatican support for Franco fresh in his mind, he was hardly without justification. Polemical righteousness brimming over, he rashly wrote in the 30s that the English novel was “practically a Protestant art form”, and that Catholic practitioners were thin on the ground both numerically and qualitatively. Practically as he put pen to paper however, two of the greatest English authors of the mid century – Henry Graham Greene and Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh – were surfacing to take the literary world by ferocious storm. And it’s fair to say the pair weren’t exactly short on Catholic sensitivities. A bad call from Mr Orwell on this one at least.

http://www.spikemagazine.com/the-literary-and-political-catholicism-of-graham-greene-and-evelyn-waugh.php

But it then goes on to point out of Greene:

When therefore, in the 80s a new strain of Faith within the region came to prominence which shared his vision, he could scarcely contain his intellectual glee. Liberation Theology combined the apparently antagonistic Catholicism and socialism which had both so inspired Greene, uniting against the US backed juntas of the subcontinent.
===

Greene was not an orthodox Catholic, to put it mildly. After BLACK MISCHIEF, Waugh was strongly criticized by a fully orthodox Catholic journal and generously supported by an incestuous Catholic cynophile called Eric Gill. I won't ask who you think better represents the Church's line on the novel and literary freedom. If Waugh and Greene are Catholic writers who undermine Orwell's thesis, I'd hate to see a pair of Catholic writers who support it.

*For satire on Catholicism in NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, see e.g. the meeting between Winston Smith and Orwell. It's a parody of the cathecism and the mass:

'You are prepared to cheat, to forge, to blackmail, to corrupt the minds of children, to distribute habit-forming drugs, to encourage prostitution, to disseminate venereal diseases--to do anything which is likely to cause demoralization and weaken the power of the Party?'

'Yes.'

'If, for example, it would somehow serve our interests to throw sulphuric acid in a child's face--are you prepared to do that?'

'Yes.'

[snip]

They emptied their glasses [of wine], and a moment later Julia stood up to go. O'Brien took a small box from the top of a cabinet and handed her a flat
white tablet which he told her to place on her tongue. It was important, he said, not to go out smelling of wine: the lift attendants were very observant.

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100021.txt

See also Orwell's comments on Catholicism and communism in THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER:

http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/books/wiganpier-11.htm

James Kabala said...

The question-and-answer catechism was actually once common to all Christian denominations (and the answers were almost always more detailed than a simple "yes" or "no").

unix said...

"Most people here aren't really interested in HBD. Most relish the inferiority of blacks and other people. Most people here you can guess aren't the winner types of people. They are shutins in svigor or whiskey."


No, I doubt it. Because if you're a "shut in" you wouldn't have the experiences most here have had. Most people here are tired of being blamed for the genetically influenced behaviors of other races. They've seen neighborhood, schools, shopping malls, state fairs, whole cities, done in because not enough money has been transferred from working people to the masses of non-working (I don't mean the temporarily unemployed.) They are weary of paying so much for thugs' many children (the same thugs who may kill them) while they themselves cannot afford any. Or maybe one.
That's what brings us here. I have to come to places like this to get statistics and information on subjects the MSM considers taboo, but which is for many whites, a matter of life and death, at times.

Adam N. Eave-Lynn said...

The question-and-answer catechism was actually once common to all Christian denominations (and the answers were almost always more detailed than a simple "yes" or "no").

Grasping at straws. What about the "flat white tablet" taken after wine? The "officiant" called O'Brien? Read what Orwell says about communism and Catholicism in, e.g. THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER and you will clearly see that he saw strong parallels between the two. I prefer Catholicism myself, mind: you get much better art and literature with the intellectual tyranny and dishonesty. Here's some of what Orwell says:

Hence the net effect of books like this [Mirsky’s Intelligentsia of Great Britain] is to give outsiders the impression that there is nothing in Communism except hatred. And here once again you come upon that queer resemblance between Communism and (convert) Roman Catholicism. If you want to find a book as evil-spirited as The Intelligentsia of Great Britain, the likeliest place to look is among the popular Roman Catholic apologists. You will find there the same venom and the same dishonesty, though, to do the Catholic justice, you will not usually find the same bad manners. Queer that Comrade Mirsky’s spiritual brother should be Father——! The Communist and the Catholic are not saying the same thing, in a sense they are even saying opposite things, and each would gladly boil the other in oil if circumstances permitted; but from the point of view of an outsider they are very much alike.

http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/books/wiganpier-11.htm

Nazism, fascism, communism, Catholicism, and Orthodox Christianity have a lot more in common than geography.

Educrat said...

with online resources, more doable than ever. Also, how about virtual robot artificial teachers beamed to the monitor of every kid?

WAITING FOR T-1000... T for 'teacher'.

If kids refuse to learn, they will be terminated.


How about virtual robot artificial superjock peers as well? I'm talking robotic Ogre Palowakski types. If homeschooled bourgeois brats refuse to socialize, they will be terminated.