Friday, March 01, 2024

Lost in Africa


“News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read.”   ― Evelyn Waugh, Scoop

Scoop (London, 1938) by Evelyn Waugh is a satire on journalism. It is based on Waugh's 1935 assignment to cover the conflict between Abyssinia and Italy while working as a war correspondent for the London Daily Mail in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). Waugh acknowledged that he was not very good at covering wars, but he did keep a close eye on what his fellow reporters were doing. The outcome was a comedic and satirical novel that mocks the newspaper industry and the journalism profession with a playful yet decidedly deadly tone.

The story centers upon a few humorous turns of events. Lord Copper, the conceited and uneducated proprietor of the Daily Beast, inadvertently dispatches William Boot, a naive nature columnist, to cover the conflict in the made-up nation of Ishmaelia in East Africa. At least geographically speaking, Ishmaelia and Abyssinia are identical. William learns a few fast lessons on the crafty methods used by journalists, who are constantly attempting to outsmart their peers and break a story. William returns to London as a well-known reporter after receiving many significant scoops on his own thanks to a string of fortunate events. However, all of it is meaningless to him, and he is glad to be going back to his remote and run-down country house, Boot Magna Hall, where his numerous eccentric relatives reside. Overall this is still an entertaining comedic read.

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