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Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh
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Put Out More Flags (1942)

by Evelyn Waugh

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7531112,333 (3.79)25
  1. 00
    Miss Bunting by Angela Thirkell (thorold)
    thorold: Quite apart from the appalling pun in Thirkell's title, it's pretty obvious that Waugh and Thirkell enjoyed each other's books. It's fun comparing their approaches to the wartime home-front situation.
  2. 00
    Unconditional Surrender by Evelyn Waugh (John_Vaughan)
  3. 00
    Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh (John_Vaughan)
  4. 00
    Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (John_Vaughan)
  5. 00
    Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (John_Vaughan)
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» See also 25 mentions

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Evelyn Waugh's look at the first year of Britain's involvement in WW2 revolves around Basil Seal. Seal and his friends & family are typical Waugh characters and his depiction of the Ministry of Information was hilarious! It is an interesting look at how many Brits felt at the beginning of the war, an attitude easily forgotten in the events that followed ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 23, 2014 |
I recently read, and very much enjoyed Sword of Honour, like this book, Sword of Honour is a satirical novel about the Second World War.

The books that comprise the Sword of Honour trilogy were written in the 1950s and 1960s when Evelyn Waugh was able to put the Second World War into some kind of perspective. Sword of Honour also happens to be one of Evelyn Waugh's masterpieces.

Put Out More Flags, an earlier war novel, opens in the autumn of 1939 and all takes place during the twelve months of the war. It was published in 1942.

I have read most of Evelyn Waugh's major works now, and, as usual, the quality of the writing is a pleasure. The story follows the wartime activities of characters introduced in Waugh's earlier satirical novels Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies and Black Mischief.

The uncertainty and confusion of the so-called "phoney war" are brilliantly evoked, and - as is so often the case - the satire and humour are very black. Basil Seal, who readers may recall from Black Mischief, is the star of the show. His opportunism creating all manner of mischief for those he runs into, and his scam involving a troublesome family of evacuated children sums him up perfectly. To suggest this book is full of humour would be misleading: one scene involving the troubled and tragic Cedric Lyne visiting his estranged wife Angela, with their son Nigel, for once impressed by him in his army uniform, is absolutely dripping with sadness and melancholy, and demonstrates Waugh's extraordinary skill.

Overall the book felt slightly uneven and a bit rushed. There is much to admire and enjoy, however I conclude this is one of Evelyn Waugh's less successful novels (against his exceptionally high standards). It's of most interest to Waugh completists (of whom I am definitely one) and should not be prioritised ahead of his key works: (Brideshead Revisited, Sword of Honour, Decline and Fall, and A Handful of Dust. ( )
  nigeyb | Mar 8, 2014 |
Very good on lots of levels. Many stories at the same time. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
Second tier Waugh: not quite with Brideshead and Sword of Honour, but the equal of Vile Bodies, and very much like the latter. Not much narrative really, but an extraordinary portrait of human foibles, tinged with melancholy. I don't think anyone does that better. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
From what I hear, "Put Out More Flags" isn't thought to be one of Evelyn Waugh's strongest novels. I'm hardly old Ev's biggest fan, but I'm not sure that this reputation is particularly deserved. It is, in my opinion, more polished and more consciously humorous piece than "Decline and Fall" and serves as a pretty good wartime update of the feckless, spineless, wealthy layabouts that typically populate Waugh's books. I think I even recognized Peter Pastmaster, whom we met in "Decline and Fall." Basil Seal and Ambrose Silk, the two central characters of "Put Out More Flag's" large cast, are memorably ridiculous London dandies and there's also the Connellys to recommend this novel, three perfectly awful lower-class children on a mission to disturb the quiet country lives of the local gentry. (Obnoxious children seem to be something of a Waugh trademark, and one that I particularly enjoy.) Waugh isn't exactly a likeable writer, but, as other readers have commented, after having enjoyed, or endured, a good deal of "Greatest Generation" mythologizing, it is positively refreshing to encounter an uncharacteristically sardonic, low-key take on the Second World War, though, as Waugh notes in his introduction, the book is set before the bombs began falling on London in earnest. As the novel ends, some of these formerly frivolous characters even begin to make themselves useful to the war effort, though, also in typical Waugh fashion, their transformations are largely a question of falling into place rather than the fruits of a Woolfian search for inner resolve. A good war, it seems is just what some of these upper-class airheads needed.

I'm moved to wonder, though, and not for the first time, why Waugh felt the need to spend so much time on them in the first place. After all, the nineteenth century gave us plenty of good novels about characters striving to find their proper place in society, and he doesn't seem particularly interested in their inner lives. Since Waugh's socialites are a tiny, unrepresentative portion of an already tiny upper class, it's curious that Waugh should choose them to illustrate Britain's experience in World War II, or any aspect of twentieth century society. I suspect, again, that the author's attitude toward them might have been motivated by personal spite, even when his creations are trying, in their limited, self-centered ways, to do their best for king and country. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Oct 26, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
For my money, Waugh is the greatest stylistic craftsman of the 20th century. Tone-deaf to music, he was pitch-perfect when it came to the music of the English language. I love the limpidness of his writing, its shocking clarity. Put Out More Flags is as tightly constructed — point and counterpoint — as a baroque fugue.
 
[Put Out More Flags} is the best record I have read of England in the first year of the Second War. In it, at the very height of his powers, Waugh somehow fuses the savage, deadly comedy of his earlier books with the ominous seriousness of his later ones. . . . If I'm not mistaken, Put Out More Flags is the greatest of Evelyn Waugh's great novels. As such, it deserves to be revived and reread as long as we read English
 
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Epigraph
A man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike a musical tone, in order to strengthen his spirit . . . and a drunk military man should order gallons and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendour.

--Chinese Sage, quoted and translated by Lin Yutang in The Importance of Living.

A little injustice in the heart can be drowned by wine; but a great injustice in the world can be drowned only by the sword.

--Epigrams of Chang Ch'ao; quoted and translated by Lin Yutang in The Importance of Living.
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To Randolph Churchill
First words
In the week which preceded the outbreak of the Second World War -- days of surmise and apprehension which cannot, without irony, be called the last days of "peace" -- and on the Sunday morning when all doubts were finally resolved and misconceptions corrected, three rich women thought first and mainly of Basil Seal.
Quotations
[Spoken by Ambrose Silk:]
"To the Chinese scholar the military hero was the lowest of human types, the subject for ribaldry. We must return to Chinese scholarship."

[Thought by Cedric Lyne:]
The great weapons of modern war did not count in single lives; it took a whole section to make a target worth a burst of machine-gun fire; a platoon or a motor lorry to be worth a bomb. No one had anything against the individual; as long as he was alone he was free and safe; there's danger in numbers; divided we stand, united we fall, thought Cedric, striding happily towards the enemy, shaking from his boots all the frustration of corporate life. He did not know it but he was thinking exactly what Ambrose had thought when he announced that culture must cease to be conventual and become coenobitic.
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Based on Evelyn Waugh's own time as a soldier, this novel is a painfully funny satire on the military establishment.

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