Parallel lives: Orwell and Waugh

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In The Same Man: George Orwell & Evelyn Waugh in Love and War, David Lebedoff recurs to the Plutarchian method of parallel lives to illuminate the character and work of his subjects. Orwell and Waugh are Lebedoff’s favorite writers, and outwardly they present a study in contrasts. In their literary work, however, he finds them to be secret sharers. Lebedoff presents the highlights of their lives, concentrating on their marital and martial experiences while illuminating their work along the way.

I have been reading and learning from David Lebedoff since the publication of The Twenty-First Ballot in 1969 and Ward Number Six in 1972. One can still learn a lot about Minnesota politics from the first book, and a lot about the fate of the Democratic Party from the second.

The new book further illuminates themes David has been exploring for a long time. Most of all, however, David is a great storyteller. In 218 pages of text, David gives us the lives of Orwell and Waugh with sympathy, humor and deep understanding. His account of Waugh’s 1944 expedition to Croatia with commanding officer Randolph Churchill, for example, is laugh-out-loud funny.

I read David’s new book in manuscript last winter and have been rereading it since I persuaded Barnes and Noble to fish out a copy for me from shipping on Monday. Just published officially yesterday, two reviewers — Eric Ormsby in the New York Sun and Cristina Odone in the Times (London) — have already provided enthusiastic endorsements that eloquently articulate his accomplishment in this book.

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