The ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold; a conversation piece

by Evelyn Waugh

Hardcover, 1957





Boston, Little, Brown [1957]. Third Printing


A successful, middle-aged novelist with a case of 'bad nerves,' Gilbert Pinfold embarks on a recuperative trip to Ceylon. Almost as soon as the gangplank lifts, Pinfold hears sounds coming out of the ceiling of his cabin: wild jazz bands, barking dogs, and loud revival meetings.

Media reviews

[T]he first part of [the novel] is first-rate. Its "portrait of the artist in middle age," before he sets forth on his tedious journey, is a genuine gothic horror, a gargoyle to terrify anyone who has ever contemplated a literary career. Mr. Pinfold is publicly successful; he is so prosperous that he does not write as much as he could, because the tax-gatherer would only take his earnings away from him; but privately he is in such advanced decay that even the most long-standing habits of self-congratulation have failed. The acid bath so often prepared for others has now found its way into his own tub.
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This [Penguin ed.] is a terrific edition of a mildly neglected classic. It is an uncomfortable book: not only is it the most faithfully autobiographical of Waugh's novels, it is about Waugh's own period of madness.

User reviews

LibraryThing member stillatim
Some people can only read a book if they know that the events it describes 'really happened.' I'm the other way round: if, as with OGP, the book fictionalizes actual events, I often get bored. There's a good reason for that--what I most appreciate in fiction is the distance between author, narrator and characters. When someone is describing what actually happened to him/her, all of that distance gets squished into a tiny, tiny little span, and I often end up feeling like the author is an idiot who's incapable of self-reflection.

That's particularly sad in the case of Waugh, who often has great swathes of distance in his work. But here... well, I just can't help feeling like it's just a bunch of self pity. Had I come out of the book feeling like Waugh himself had learned from his Pinfoldian experience (i.e., that some of his various sillinesses were not harmlessly silly, but actually obnoxious), I might have had a better time. As it was, Pinfold comes out of it feeling like he's a superman who can defeat psychological disturbance with an apt phrase, and that therefore he's quite right to ignore the accusations leveled at him. Is that how Waugh felt? I can't help but believe that it was. If someone can convince me otherwise, I'd really appreciate it, because I suspect this book has made it much harder for me to go back and enjoy Waugh's earlier works.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
Rather an odd book, really, and not by any means my favorite Waugh novel. Funny in parts, but more often just something of a slog.



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