Monday, June 30, 2014

Brideshead Revisited [1945]

I had begun reading Brideshead Revisited, English writer Evelyn Waugh’s most famous work, assuming it to be a howling satire; though it did have satirical undertones, to my mild disappointment, it was anything but howling. Rather, it was, alternately, a wry portrayal of British aristocracy, a bleak chronicle on the passage of time, and a melancholic account on love and friendship. These, along with the author’s penchant for ostentatious language, gregarious dialogues and long-winded narration, gave it an air of a very literary work – consequently, the flamboyant style oftentimes overrode the content as it was easy to get lost in the flow of words. Yet, its distancing nature apart, it did manage to generate the emotional core of its deeply felt storyline. In fact, the middle section of the book succeeded in evoking certain memories from long past and leaving deep regrets in the path, and the effect – direct yet subliminal – was haunting. Narrated in the form of flashbacks by Capt. Charles Ryder, the tale chronicled his unlikely friendship with the self-destructive Lord Sebastian Flyte who eventually becomes a drunkard and vagabond, his acquaintance with the neurotic, eccentric and aristocratic Marchmain family that Sebastian belonged to, his morose marriage, and his heartwarming but ultimately tragic love affair with the beautiful and enigmatic Julia, Sebastian’s sister, serendipitously rekindled many years after their first acquaintance. The book touched upon a number of themes – the unpredictability of love, the complexities of unquestioning friendship, nostalgia for times gone by, the crumbling nature of aristocracy vis-à-vis nouveau riche, the quirks of Catholicism in particular and the larger debate on faith versus rationality in general, among others. This, therefore, deserves to be read, even if it isn’t an easy or immediately endearing book; no wonder, it has been included by Time magazine and Modern Library as one of 100 best English-language novels of 20th century, by Newsweek as one of 100 best books of world literature, and by BBC’s The Big Read survey as one of Britain’s most loved novels.

Author: Evelyn Waugh
Genre: Drama/Black Comedy/Social Satire/Romance
Language: English
Country: UK

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