Friday, June 22, 2007

Writers who declined honours

Also in today's blog
Cold Comfort Farm

I was interested to read at The Independent yesterday that a number of writers had declined honours.

Alan Bennett declined a CBE for services to literature in 1988 and a knighthood eight years later. He also turned down an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1998, because it had accepted funds from Rupert Murdoch.

Roald Dahl refused an OBE in 1986. Evelyn Waugh declined a CBE in 1959.

Earlier this month I mentioned borrowing my public library's copy of Fathers and Sons, The Autobiography of a Family by Alexander Waugh [Headline 2004 £20].

A reader's comment about the book at Amazon UK reads –

"Evelyn Waugh is of course the hook that will draw readers into this exceptional 'Autobiography of a Family'. It would be a mistake, though, to assume that his overtowering genius dwarves the rest of the book. Beginning with Evelyn's grandfather 'The Brute' (who crushed a wasp on his wife's forehead with his whip, and made his son Arthur kiss a guncase in an effort to kindle a passion for shooting), and finishing with a letter from the author to his own son Bron, this book is totally engrossing. Alexander Waugh is the son of another Bron, the great and good, who will long be remembered for his journalism. Alexander shows in this book the same light touch, disguising deep research, that was displayed in his biography of God and 'Time'. He too is a talent to be reckoned with. This book is funny, erudite, and oddly moving - this may be an extraordinary family in terms of literary output (Arthur Waugh's descendants have published a staggering 180 books between them) but it is above all a family. Alexander Waugh shows a deep affection for his eccentric family, without ever appearing adulatory or incapable of observing faults as well as virtues."

It wasn't Evelyn Waugh who made me borrow the book. Far from sharing Nancy Mitford's liking for him, I thought EW a pain but admired his son Auberon Waugh. If there's a reference to Evelyn's rejected CBE in his grandson's book, I must have skipped that page, and I can't find anything about in the index.

Cold Comfort Farm

I've been meaning to read Stella Gibbons' famous novel since I was in my teens. Watching a video of the film version has reactivated that intention.

The Literary Encylopaedia has a good piece about SG, but it isn't possible to copy and paste an extract without going through a time-consuming rigmarole which most bloggers don't have time for, so I'll leave you to hit the link if you're interested.


At 30 June, 2007, Blogger Adrian Weston said...

DO act on your intention. I adore Cold Comfort Farm - a beautifully paced pieces of satirical writing. Some of the targets for her satire are more than a little antiquated, but none the worse for that.

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