Cruising Around the Mediterranean with Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh is best known as the author of Brideshead Revisted, a novel depicting British aristocracy and high society in the first few decades of the 20th century.

He never inspired to be a great traveler or travel writer. By his own admission, he simply travelled as a matter of course as was expected of a young man of his standing. As a  result, from 1928 to 1937 he was constantly on the move, travelling around England and abroad, documenting his experiences in a number of travel books.

labels-evelyn-waugh-travel-bookWaugh’s first travel book, Labels: A Mediterranean Journey (1930) charts his travels by cruise ship around the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern seaports.

Written as a semi-fictionalized travelogue in which Waugh casts himself not only as a batchelor (when in truth he was on his honeymoon) but also as an innocent abroad, Labels is a hilarious account of his 1929 travels.

Like his novels, Waugh’s Labels is ruthlessly satirical. A true novelist, his travel writing focuses more on the character and attitudes of his fellow-travellers and indigenous residents than locations. And when he does write about locations, it’s not always in the most favourable light.

I do not think I shall ever forget the sight of Etna at sunset; the mountains almost invisible in a blur of pastel grey, glowing on the top and then repeating its shape, as thought reflected, in a wisp of smoke, with the whole horizon behind radiant with pink light, fading gently into a grey pastel sky. Nothing I have ever seen in Art or Nature was quite so revolting. (pg 169)

It sure makes for entertaining reading of travel in a bygone era.

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