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Put Out More Flags Paperback – August 15, 2002
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The book, like most of Waugh's satires, contains a number of secondary characters who are often quite amusing. In this Waugh is the equal of Dickens (a comparison Waugh might not have appreciated), in his celebration of the English eccentric. From a technical execution the novel is rather interesting in that its main character, its anti-hero, Basil Seal, is somewhat of a character himself.
Basil Seal originally appeared in the work "Black Mischief" is a trickster, eternally on the lookout for a way of earning a dishonest living. Basil's life is complicated by the outbreak of war and the insistance by the women in his life to play a hero's part in it (preferably dying while do so, in the case of his mother).
Possessed of considerable guile he hotfoots it off to the country where he runs a profitable extortion racket involving three very undesirable war refugee children. These obnoxious brats manage to destroy most of the stately cottages of, if not the upper classes, then the upper middle classes.
Another central character in the book is Ambrose Silk. Silk wishes the war would go away and at the same time wonders what his role should be. Eventually he settles on publishing an arts magazine, whose most notable work celebrates his love for a German soldier is twisted into Nazi propaganda by Basil working as a counterespionage agent.
Though filled with topical humor, "Put out More Flags" manages to transcend the time in which it was written. It contains a number of thinly disguised portraits of famous people.Read more ›
Like Wodehouse, but with greater subtlety, Waugh finds an underlying silliness in all types of characters and sets them up to be knocked down like ducks in a shooting gallery. In "Put Out More Flags," he dredges up some characters from previous novels and introduces them into comic situations within the context of the incipient European war (1939-1940). Foremost among them is Basil Seal, a thirty-six-year-old who is as unemployable as a six-year-old. His mother tries to help him get a prestigious position in the Army, but he blows it when he unintentionally and unknowingly insults the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Bombardiers. Fortunately, he is able to get a job with the War Department where he discovers that the secret to success is to level charges of Communism and Nazism against his (mostly) innocent friends and inform on them.
Basil's friends and family also make the most of war time. Ambrose Silk, a Jewish atheist, takes advantage of his job at the Religious Department of the Ministry of Information to start a fustian periodical.Read more ›
This is set in that strange time when Britain had just gone to war but France had not fallen. You meet some characters from his other books. This added to the pleasure for me but I don't know if it's the one I would recommend to someone who'd never read any Waugh before. It also helps if you know something about the 1930's British literary scene and can recognize who is being satirized. Parsnip and Pimpernell are presumably Auden and Spender. I've heard of various candidates fir being Ambose Silk.
Still, this book can be enjoyed on its own merits. Waugh skewers government and military leadership in the early stages of World War Two and offers hilarious accounts of how civilians deal with the war. Even children being sent to the country to avoid bombings draws Waugh's attention--and provides some funny moments. Despite the laughs, Waugh has a few serious messages in this work and they will stay with the reader. At the center of the book is Basil Seal who some readers might remember from "Black Mischief." Basil holds the book together as his constant schemes and pivots provide much entertainment. The Kindle version also includes "Basil Seal Rides Again," a funny and biting look at the 1960s, which was the last piece of fiction Waugh wrote.
Waugh was one of the best English writers of the 20th century and "Put Out More Flags" ranks as one of his best works despite not being well known. Highest recommendation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Waugh is an acknowledged master of the British comic novel. An American reader has to understand that British comic novels, aside from P.G. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Randee Baty
Everyone had to join the war effort against Hitler, even the Bright Young Things of Evelyn Waugh’s comic masterpieces, Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies, and this hilarious book... Read morePublished 11 months ago by The Garden Interior
while reading this book II found it was like all of Waugh's wonderful books was another amusing and ironical novel.Published 19 months ago by Susan Loftus
Probably the only satire about the Second World War. A nasty one with a huge cast of memorably despicable and or silly characters.Published 20 months ago by Isabel Archer
Had it with pseudo-literary novels about WWII? Fed up with cheap Blitz sentimentalism? Tired of crowd-pleasing tales of popular heroism? Put Out More Flags is for you. Read morePublished 23 months ago by reader 451
While not one of his better known books, "Put Out More Flags" is a gem by Evelyn Waugh. Turning from satire to taking up more religious and moral themes, "Put Out More... Read morePublished on February 4, 2014 by Kevin M. Derby
Evelyn Waugh is a master of irony. The English nobility are not safe from subtle ridicule under his pen. The empire is getting ready for war with Germany.Published on November 12, 2013 by john c ruth
Britain lost a good generation in World War I and the young survivors constitute a 'lost generation' in Waugh's novels. Read morePublished on August 27, 2013 by James Ellsworth