Apropos of a recent wave of Wauviana (sp?) here, the NYTimes' reviewer Michiko Kakutani pans an intriguing new book, "The Same Man: George Orwell & Evelyn Waugh in Love and War," by David Lebedoff. As Kakutani writes, "Lebedoff takes a completely contrarian view, attempting to argue that these brilliant but very different writers were in fact soul mates: they both believed that morality is absolute and that moral relativism was the gravest of sins; they both feared the Modern Age as an era when tradition, civility and community would give way to mindless materialism and escapist pleasure."Inher review, Kakutani makes it clear that she thinks Lebedoff's novel take is a stretch, and I can't disagree, though I've of coursenot read the book. It seems to me Lebedoff may have done better to fictionalize his thesis, using as his donnee thereal-lifeepisode ofWaugh's visit the latter as he lay dying.
Waugh, who had admired Orwells writing, had asked if he and some friends he described as earnest students of Orwells work might pay a visit; no record exists of their conversation. Waughs friend Malcolm Muggeridge found the idea of the two mens visit highly amusing: I would have loved to see them together: Complementary figures ... [Waughs] country gentlemans outfit and Orwells proletarian one and the both out of the pages of Punch.
If the literal and literary parallels between Waugh and Orwell are too wide to support Lebedoff's thesis that they are "the same man," I do wonder if their mindsets reflect a certain commonality--one that we see frequently in the church and the world these days: a concern for moral absolutes, the gulf between precepts and personal behavior,and the future of society; a certain pessimism (or Augustinian realism, as some might frame it) that things will ever get better; and an anger thatmust be expressed--in their cases, through great art. The two extremesgoing so far as tofind a meeting point on the other side. That's not so new.