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A Handful of Dust Relié – 1977

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110 internautes sur 118 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
One of the Master's Best 23 juin 2004
Par Bruce Kendall - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
You know that when you see a passage from Eliot's THE WASTE LAND appearing before the title page that you are not headed for 300 pages of fun and games. Sure there is the usual stock of Waugh humor, wit, and snappy dialogue to be had here, but this ranks as amongst his darkest novels. It's tragicomedy at its finest. It's also one of the most beautifully written novels I've ever read, perfect in pitch, cadence, wording, razor sharp characterization, mood, you name it.
Like a number of his novels, it is set primarily in England, between the wars, bouncing back and forth between London and an Estate in the country. The plot boils down to the break up of a marriage and the decline and fall of the central character, Lord of the manor and eventual "Explorer," Anthony (Tony) Mast.
Tony means well. He really does. It's just that he's so fixated on maintaining Hetton, his hereditary estate, that he doesn't even notice when his lovely wife Brenda engages in an affair with an inconsequential and boorish young society chap to whom Waugh assigns the inglorious name, John Beaver.
Waugh's customary drollery comes to the fore as he depicts the cavalier attitudes towards the affair on the part of Tony's and Brenda's social circle. They are rather like actors in a Restoration play, whose moral compasses have become entirely skewed. Though not as moralistic as some of Waugh's late novels, A HANDFUL OF DUST definitely offers a portrait of a very decadent society, indeed. These are not sympathetic characters. Even the two children who enter into the plot are hardly what one would call likeable.
This novel definitely takes some unexpected turns, leading us eventually to a denouement in the Amazon Jungle. The ending has to rank as one of the greatest in literature.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. The English are greatest satirists and Waugh was the master of the genre amongst 20th century writers. I've got a couple more Waugh books on my list, but will go with VILE BODIES next, as it's already on my shelf.
This edition has print large enough that I didn't need my reading glasses. It's the quickest 300 page novel I've ever read. It only took about 6 hrs cover to cover, and I am not a fast reader. I really was so transfixed that I had to read it straight through, which I don't usually do these days.
51 internautes sur 56 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A note about those two endings... 6 juillet 2004
Par D. Cloyce Smith - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This odd, clever, scathingly bitter satire seems a patchwork of various pieces of fiction--and, as its history attests, it is. A little over halfway through the novel, "A Handful of Dust" veers, rather unexpectedly, from a bitter reflection on an unfaithful wife and her upper-crust coconspirators to a Conradian parody of explorers in the Brazilian wilderness.
To explain this incongruity, The Everyman's Library edition of this fascinating work features a must-read introduction by William Boyd, but (as such introductions often do), it contains so many "spoilers" that readers are warned to wait until afterwards to peruse it. Boyd's essay does, however, summarize two salient aspects of the novel that are prerequisite to understanding (and perhaps enjoying) it.
Waugh's first marriage to Evelyn Gardner ended acrimoniously in 1929; four years later (and the year before he wrote "A Handful of Dust") his heart was broken a second time when Teresa Jungman turned down his proposal of marriage. Knowing this, it's hard not to read the fictional account of Tony and Brenda's marriage, as Boyd does, as "Waugh's own exploration of betrayal and sexual humiliation and . . . a form of revenge against the damage inflicted on his psyche by Evelyn Gardner. . . . It is an unyieldingly cruel and vicious portrait of a worthless woman. . . . The novel is full of hate and scorn, not just for Brenda, but also for the society in which she moves." There is no denying that the novel reads like an act of vengeance, and this contempt takes many forms: Brenda, at first charming and innocent, quickly and inexplicably devolves into vapidity and selfishness; Tony's closest friends hide from him their knowledge that Brenda is having an affair; and--at the book's most memorable, pivotal, venomous moment--Brenda shows more concern for her lover than for her only son.
Waugh published two entirely different endings, both of which are included in many editions. (Make sure you get a copy that has both versions.) Boyd explains: after writing "the first two-thirds of this novel at great speed," Waugh was unsure how to end it, knowing only that he wanted "a sad end." For the British edition, he appended, with minor alterations, an earlier short story, "The Man Who Liked Dickens," about an aristocrat trapped by a madman in Brazil. Yet he had to write a second ending for the serial publication for Harper's Bazaar in the United States, because he had previously published the "Dickens" story in a competing magazine. While the British ending is satisfying (and devious) on its own, it nevertheless seems out of place; readers who feel that they have suddenly picked up another story about a different character in the opposite hemisphere will feel some vindication learning that, in a sense, they have done exactly that.
I agree with Boyd that the American version, while simpler, is "truer to the novel's potent undercurrents than the short story Waugh recycled to finish off his sombre, disturbing tale of adultery." Other readers, obviously, disagree, and find the alternate ending too pat, too cynical, top predictable. (I, personally, enjoyed both endings for different reasons, but found both a little unsatisfying, each belying the book's claim to cohesiveness.) Yet the fact that Waugh could write two endings over which future readers and critics would war only attests to his brilliance.
31 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Sparkling prose, surprising plot twists 24 février 2000
Par Michael J. McVay - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This novel is not satirical, but dead-on accurate in its observations of a certain stratum of English society which is no longer shamed or shocked by its own actions. Brenda is put off by the "monstrous way" Tony has behaved -- namely, not allowing her to continue as the "victim" of the divorce proceeding. Her "friends" aid and abet her philanderings while gossiping behind her back, and allowing her to become penniless while they go off on holiday. Mrs. Beaver, whose son is the amoral, parasitic lover, is interested in the affair only by what can be gained monetarily from it.
The astonishing twist in the story line, following Tony's harrowing adventures in the Amazon jungle, is perplexing to some readers, but in fact serves as an interesting comparison of the two totally different environments Tony has had to deal with, one of "civilized" society, and the other of the jungle. The more "civilized" people in the jungle (all the English-speaking characters) create just as many problems for Tony as the bats and mosquitoes. (Perhaps some of the previous reviewers could have thought a little more along these lines before writing a bad review.)
Also, one has to think how Tony could have avoided his misfortunes. He is undone by his staidness, until it is too late. Perhaps Waugh is commenting on the English gentry in general(?) Waugh also pointedly observes how the upper-class children are brought up by nannies and stablehands, while the parents remain aloof to their daily activities.
A great novel causes the reader to think on several levels, while also being an entertaining read. This novel accomplishes both goals. Every word and action has its significance in a great work such as this one!
17 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Ingenious 15 avril 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
In this book, the protagonist is Tony Last, an Englishman who would much rather tend to his beloved estate in th country than join his wife on trips to see their arrogant and aristocratic friends in London. Brenda, the wife, becomes bored with their quaint life, has an affair, and Tony's son dies in an accident. In a strange twist, on a trip to South America near the book's end, he ends up in the dense jungle in the care of an illiterate man who promises to let him go but instead forces him to read aloud from Dickens. The main idea is that betrayal follows Tony wherever he goes-- from his wife in England to the enigmatic man in the jungle. It's a enormously humorous satire of the London aristocracy,in which the people treat their "friends' misfortunes as entertainment. In fact, they gossip about the affair his wife is having in his own house, during a party he is throwing. The jungle is a parable for London-- seemingly harmless at first, but with dark undercurrents of backstabbing, lies, and treachery. A terrific novel by a Waugh, a brilliant writer.
13 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Waugh's Best 3 juillet 2001
Par I. J. Prastein - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This if probably my favorite of Evelyn Waugh's novels. While it is not as sophisticated as Bridshead Revisited and its characters are not as well developed, it provides the reader with a fantastic example of the literary form that Waugh specialized in - bitter, caustic satire. Waugh elegantly and effortlessly provides us with the dark, mean-spirited social commentary that the French New Wave movement brought to film thirty years later. A Handful of Dust is peopled with nothing but caricatures, but they are so finely crafted that the book lacks the clumsiness that I've found in some of his other satires like Scoop or Decline and Fall. With them, Waugh has generated a powerful indictment of Britain's idle class during the post WWI era. I always find it fun to read a P.G. Wodehouse novel after Waugh to get opposite ends of the spectrum. Following Waugh's society of complete moral bankruptcy with Wodehouse's good-natured buffoonery makes you wonder just what on earth was going on in England between the wars. I must agree with many of the other reviewers that the ending is a disappointment (as are the endings to Bridshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, and The Loved One). If Waugh is trying to create an analogy between Brenda's imprisonment in a dull marriage to Tony's plight of spending the rest of his days in the jungle reading to his illiterate captor, I think he has performed it in a rather inelegant manner. It is almost as if he had an idea for a short story that he tacked on the end of this novel. Nonetheless, this does not keep A Handful of Dust from being on of Waugh's finest novels.
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