Scoop (1937)

by Evelyn Waugh

Scoop is not read as much today as Evelyn Waugh's other novels, probably because of its political incorrectness. It is unquestionably racist in its depiction of the inhabitants of the fictional African state of Ishmaelia. But Waugh being an unabashed misanthrope, the Europeans don't come off very well either.

For those who can look past the offensiveness, Scoop provides many moments of hilarity. It is a satire on the British newspaper business of the 1930s and was inspired by Waugh's own experiences as a war correspondent in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935.

In Scoop, the unsophisticated country gentleman William Boot, who writes a nature column for The Beast of London, is mistaken for the up-and-coming novelist John Boot and recruited to go to Ishmaelia, where a civil war is threatening. Boot knows nothing of journalism, and his dispatches to his editors are likely to say he's safe and enjoying the weather. But neither are the seasoned journalists who are his companions in Ishmaelia admirable, as they fabricate news to please the editors and owners back home. It's Boot who bumbles upon the big story — the scoop of the title — and becomes famous. But he is unfazed and turns down offers to continue a career as a foreign correspondent, choosing to return to living with his eccentric relatives in their dilapidated country home.

The Modern Library Association included Scoop on its list of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century, and the British newspaper The Observer ranked it among the 100 best of all time.


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