Evelyn Waugh: 1960

A most interesting look at Evelyn Waugh in a 1960 BBC interview.  Curiously, Joan Bakewell's later introduction and John Freeman's comments seem to indicate that this interview is some sort of failure as Waugh was so bored, nervous, unforthcoming.  Curious, because it seems to me that Waugh answered some very strange questions very straightforwardly.  No, he doesn't get all chummy with the interviewer who soldiers on with what could be seen as dreadfully provocative questions, often a thinly-veiled prurient interest in a supposedly idle, well-upholstered, squirarchic life.  Clearly Waugh was on his way to being deeply unfashionable in the early 1960s, and actually still is.  

I quite respect Waugh in this interview and his resistance to the psychologising impulse that so dominates contemporary interviewing.  And yet, he does reveal so much.  For example, his self-indulgent sloth at Oxford where he was on an open scholarship and where he said he grew up, or public schools after WWI, bleak, terrible food, cold, shell-shocked and/or sadistic teachers: the basis of a terrific body of literature.  He wants to be seen as a wordsmith, a trade at which he labours.  The interviewer flounders, Waugh is implacable, he simply won't deliver what the interviewer wants.

Having recently been interviewed myself (a brief five minutes) and finding myself led completely off-track into fields I strenuously try to avoid, I wish I had the intelligence and sang-froid of Waugh, plus his patience.

Stephanie Whitesound, videos, writers