Put out More Flags (Waugh)

Waugh, Evelyn. Put out More Flags.

Basil Seal is a rogue and a scoundrel.  He grew up with too much money.  Unlike the modern American rich kids who are simply wastrels, Basil is not lazy.  In fact, he is probably too industrious. He comes up with numerous rackets that capitalize on the confusion in the early days of World War II.

Like in all of Waugh’s novels, we get a perfect glimpse into the decayed social structure of the pseudo-intellectuals (i.e., Marxists) in Britain.  The novel is not necessarily happy, few of Waugh’s are, but its wit is razor sharp.  For reasons one can’t fathom, Basil is often in the company of the avant-garde Marxists.  He tells one surrealist painter who is frightened by the war, “You know I should have thought an air raid was just the thing for a surrealiste; it ought to give you plenty of compositions–limbs and things lying about in odd places you know” (Waugh 32).

On a Marxist Heaven

“[Basil] is a man for whom there will be no place in the coming workers’ state; and yet, thought Ambrose, I hunger for his company.  It is a curious thing, he thought, that every creed promises a paradise which will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilised taste. Nanny told me of a Heaven that was full of angels playing harps; the communists tell me of an earth full of leisure and contented factory hands. I don’t see Basil getting past the gate of either” (69-70).

As in all of Waugh’s novels, we see beyond the brutal satire and occasionally glimpse that beautiful world that was old England.


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