Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Christopher Hitchen's thoughts on "Brideshead Revisited"

After posting my review of the 2008 movie adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, starring Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw and Emma Thompson, I came across an article in the Guardian by the late, brilliant Christopher Hitchens. While I never exactly agreed with Christopher Hitchens' views on many things - namely the monarchy and some of his critique of religion - I always admired his superb skills as a writer and this reflection on what makes Brideshead Revisited so compelling, reminds me why.

Hitchen deftly highlights how Sebastian's sexual ambiguity and male beauty is almost certainly an homage to the martyrdom of the Christian saint, Sebastian. He demolishes the idea that Charles and Sebastian were not romantically attached to one another and goes to town on "the ridiculous word 'platonic' that for some peculiar reason still crops up in discussion of the story". He cleverly explores how Christianity helped shape not just the novel's storyline, but also some of its sentence structure. But his best analysis comes on how he believes it's the ghost of the First World War and the millions of war-dead that haunt Brideshead Revisited - shaping characters as diverse as Lady Marchmain (whose three brothers were killed on the Western Front and who is determined to immortalise them in a dynastic history) to the bullish "Boy" Mulcaster, a viscount's heir who becomes involved in repressing the General Strike because he thinks it will make the "Glorious Dead" of the war proud that he, who was too young to fight in 1914, stepped up to save the nation from its internal enemies in 1926.

It's a brilliant article, from a brilliant writer, and it can be accessed here.

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