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Black Mischief Paperback – December, 1977
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7 1-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), whom Time called "one of the century's great masters of English prose," wrote several widely acclaimed novels as well as volumes of biography, memoir, travel writing, and journalism. Three of his novels, A Handful of Dust, Scoop, and Brideshead Revisited, were selected by the Modern Library as among the 100 best novels of the twentieth century. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The whole concept of the British in exotic countries is a farce, and when mixed with Waugh's equally lunatic native characters face to face with bizarre and inexplicable Western civilization- whew- anything could and does happen. There are no noble characters, of course, but redeeming fools, which is about as good as one can get in a Wauvian satire. My favorites are the animal rights ladies who come to Africa to see that the natives are treating their livestock well. These ladies, one named Miss Tin, land in the midst of a revolution and have to hit a driver in the head with a brandy bottle to get a ride to the English settlement. They followed a fellow anti-vivesectionist cleric who led the ministry of our `dumb chums.'
There is every kind of European religion stirring up trouble and as usual, the British are completely sequestered amongst themselves preoccupied with their gardens and other habits in blissful and selfish ignorance. The leader of these Imperialists is described as "a self-assured old booby." One of the titled females is named `Lady Everyman.'
The political relevance is so acute that it seems impossible that this was written in 1932. Waugh even seems to have some political consciousness in this book, certainly, he is gentler, on the whole while being enduringly funny. I would definitely place this as my second favorite Waugh. It has a gripping end and is a statement less of bigotry, (of which he probably was one, but who wasn't,) but also of the need to reevaluate what in the name of God all of the colonizing was about.
Black, Oxford-educated Seth ("Emperor of Azania,Chief of the Chiefs of Sakuyu, Lord of Wanda and Tyrant of the Seas, Bachelor of the Arts of Oxford University")attempts to reform his backward, corrupt African nation with the aid of an amoral Englishman, Basil Seal. This being Waugh, all ends hilariously tragically. All the usual Waugh-like elements are here: the "disappearing hero" (ie non-active protagonist); the comic but desperately tragic fate of the main characters; the utterly misogynistic & unsympathetic view of all mankind; and all written with his usual, biting, elegant, hilarious satire. This novel is not racist. It may be a trifle politically incorrect to our enlightened generation (political correctness of course meaning that we think it but don't say it)but as with all novels more than 20 years old we have to read it in the light of the attitudes and opinions of the era in which it is written and this novel is a very accurate and funny reflection of the attitudes of the 1930's.
Despite the novel's title, the satire is aimed at all races and ethnic groups, with the white British Legation (portrayed as ignorant, inane, out-of-touch idiots) coming in for the bitterest attacks. Indeed, if our sympathies lie anywhere, it is with the well-meaning, likeable but ultimately ill-advised black emperor, Seth. Waugh was possibly the greatest and sharpest satirist of the 20th Century and this is possibly his greatest and sharpest novel.As an Englishman, I feel it is very sad that American readers are denied access to this classic work. ("If we can't stamp out literature in the country we can at least stop it being brought in from outside" - Evelyn Waugh, 'Vile Bodies')
Such advocates of political correctness should perhaps adopt Seth's own slogan for his doomed campaign "We are Progess and the New Age. Nothing can stand in our way." Read this novel - order it from the UK site if necessary - & judge it for yourself. I guarantee you a good read.