Africa out-distanced Evelyn Waugh's satire in Scoop and Black Mischief. It still does.

Issue: Winter 2003-2004

William Deedes, At War With Waugh (London: Macmillan, 2003), 125 pp., £12.99.

IT HAS long been one of the worst. kept secrets among that tight-knit community of those of us commonly deemed "war correspondents"; that is, that Evelyn Waugh's fictitious masterpiece Scoop, about journalistic follies in a make-believe place called Ismaelia, was in fact not parody at all, but a frighteningly accurate portrait of the working press at its very worst. But what makes Scoop even more enduring is that it seems to defy time. Waugh's nature-writer-turned-war-reporter William Boot, crating up his cleft sticks and canoe to travel to the front, could just as easily have been the latter-day hacks in Kuwait last February and March, stocking their rented Land Cruisers with boxes of tuna, cartons of bottled water, and fuel-laden jerry-cans, while twiddling their thumbs for weeks in five-star hotels waiting for the bombs to begin falling on Baghdad.

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