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Encyclopedia > A Handful of Dust
A Handful of Dust
Jacket of the first UK edition of A Handful of Dust
Author Evelyn Waugh
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Farrar & Rinehart
Released 1934
Media Type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 308 p. (1st edition hardcover)

A Handful of Dust is a novel by Evelyn Waugh published in 1934. Image File history File links Dust300. ... Evelyn Waugh, as photographed in 1940 by Carl Van Vechten Arthur Evelyn St. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Daniel Defoes Robinson Crusoe; title page of 1719 newspaper edition A novel (from French nouvelle, new) is an extended fictional narrative in prose. ... 1934 (MCMXXXIV) was a common year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ... A hardcover (or hardback or hardbound) book is bound with rigid protective covers (typically of cardboard covered with cloth or heavy paper) and a stitched spine. ... Paperback may refer to a kind of book binding by which papers are simply folded without cloth or leather and bound - usually with glue rather than stitches or staples - into a thick paper cover; or to a book with this type of binding. ... Daniel Defoes Robinson Crusoe; title page of 1719 newspaper edition A novel (from French nouvelle, new) is an extended fictional narrative in prose. ... Evelyn Waugh, as photographed in 1940 by Carl Van Vechten Arthur Evelyn St. ... 1934 (MCMXXXIV) was a common year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ...

The title is an allusion to T. S. Eliot's 1922 poem The Waste Land: Allusion is a stylistic device in which one implicitly references a related object or circumstance that has occurred or existed in an external context. ... T.S. Eliot (by E.O. Hoppe, 1919) Thomas Stearns Eliot, OM (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965) was an American-born poet, dramatist, and literary critic, whose works, such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and Four Quartets, are considered defining achievements of twentieth... 1922 (MCMXXII) was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... T. S. Eliot (by E. O. Hoppe, 1919) The Waste Land is a highly influential 433-line modernist poem by T. S. Eliot. ...

I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

The novel was originally called A Handful of Ashes, but, after a dispute with his American publishers, the quotation from The Waste Land was chosen. Christopher Sykes, Waugh's biographer, notes, "the title was not apposite."

Plot summary

The novel is set in the 1920s, and focusses on the breakdown of the marriage of Tony and Lady Brenda Last. Tony is preoccupied with the maintenance of Hetton Abbey, a masterpiece of unfashionable Victorian Gothic architecture. “Between the villages of Hetton and Compton Last lies the extensive park of Hetton Abbey,” proclaims Tony’s guidebook in the novel’s opening pages. “This, formerly one of the notable houses of the county, was entirely rebuilt in 1864 in the Gothic style and is now devoid of interest”. John Beaver, a self-interested and impoverished social-climber, is invited to Hetton, and begins an affair with Brenda. ...

After the Lasts' son, also called John, is killed in a riding accident Brenda decides that she wants a divorce. In order to avoid any scandal for his wife, Tony agrees to go through the sham of creating appropriate grounds for divorce. Their agreement on the divorce falls apart when Brenda requests that Tony sell Hetton, and the divorce is postponed. Instead, he participates in an expedition to Brazil. Everyone on the expedition is killed, except Tony, who stumbles into an isolated tribal village. Once there, he is held hostage by Mr Todd, who insists that Tony remain forever, reading him the works of Charles Dickens. The novel ends with obscure relatives of Tony taking over Hetton. Charles Dickens was a prolific writer who was almost always working on a new installment for a story and rarely missed a deadline. ...

In a different ending for the novel, required for an American audience who did not approve of the bleakness of the original, Tony returns from Brazil and returns to his relationship with Brenda.

Waugh wrote of how the novel came to be written:

"I had just written a short story about a man trapped in the jungle, ending his days reading Dickens aloud. The idea came quite naturally from the experience of visiting a lonely settler of that kind and reflecting how easily he could hold me prisoner [...] eventually the thing grew into a study of other sorts of savages at home and the civilized man's helpless plight among them."

Film or TV adaptations

The novel was filmed in 1988 by Charles Sturridge, and starring James Wilby as Tony Last, Kristin Scott Thomas as Brenda Last and Rupert Graves as John Beaver. It also starred Alec Guinness as Mr Todd. Carlton Towers was used as the location of Hetton. Charles Sturridge (born June 24, 1951) is a British television and movie director. ... James Wilby is a British film and stage actor born in Burma in 1958. ... Kristin Scott Thomas in Random Hearts Kristin Scott Thomas OBE (born May 24, 1960) is a English actress, born in Redruth, Cornwall, England. ... Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Sir Alec Guinness CH CBE (April 2, 1914–August 5, 2000) was an Oscar-winning English actor who became one of the most versatile and best-loved performers of his generation. ... This page meets Wikipedias criteria for speedy deletion. ...

External link

  • Detailed notes on the novel.
For the New Zealand band, see A Handful of Dust (band)



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