Home » England » Evelyn Waugh » Black Mischief

Evelyn Waugh: Black Mischief

Waugh likes nothing more than poking fun at foreigners and the ambitious middle class, so he is in his element in this book. It is set in the fictitious African country of Azania (if it looks like Zanzibar, that might not be entirely a coincidence). Azania is ruled by Seth, an Oxford graduate, who returns to his country to reform it. With the aid of fellow Oxonian, the wily, corrupt Basil Seal whom he appoints Minister of Modernisation, he manages to make a (hilarious) mess of things. There is a coup against him, organised by his erstwhile ally, General Connolly, the French ambassador and the Patriarch of the Nestorian Church. Seth flees into the jungle. When Basil, in hot pursuit, catches up with him, he is already dead. Waugh has his final bit of fun by having Basil unwittingly eating his girlfriend at the funeral feast. Azania, of course, is recolonised. The novel is, naturally, racist and totally cynical and funny.

Publishing history

First published 1932 by Chapman & Hall