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Vile Bodies  
Jacket of the first UK edition of Vile Bodies
Jacket of the first UK edition of Vile Bodies
Author Evelyn Waugh
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Little, Brown and Company
Publication date 1930
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 0141182873
OCLC Number 42700827
Preceded by 'Decline and Fall'
Followed by 'Black Mischief'

Vile Bodies is a 1930 novel by Evelyn Waugh satirising the Bright Young People: decadent young London society between World War I and World War II. The title comes from the Epistle to the Philippians 3:21. The book was originally to be called "Bright Young Things" (which went on to be the title of Stephen Fry's 2003 film); Waugh changed it because he decided the phrase had become too clichéd. The title that Waugh eventually settled on comes from a comment that the novel's protagonist, Adam Fenwick-Symes, makes to his fiancee Nina when talking about their party-driven lifestyle: 'All that succession and repetition of massed humanity... Those vile bodies...'[1]

Heavily influenced by the cinema and by the disjointed style of T. S. Eliot, Vile Bodies is Waugh's most ostentatiously "modern" novel[2]. Fragments of dialogue and rapid scene changes are held together by the dry, almost perversely unflappable narrator. The book was dedicated to B. G. and D. G. (Bryan and Diana Guinness). Waugh claims it was the first novel in which much of the dialogue takes place on the phone.

David Bowie cited the novel as the primary influence on his composition of the song Aladdin Sane.[3]


Adam Fenwick-Symes is the novel's unheroic hero; his quest to marry Nina parodies the conventions of romantic comedy, as the traditional foils and allies prove distracted and ineffectual. War looms, Adam's circle of friends disintegrates, and Adam and Nina's engagement flounders. At book's end, we find Adam alone on an apocalyptic European battlefield. The book's shift in tone from light-hearted romp to bleak desolation has bothered some critics.[4][5][6] (Waugh himself later attributed it to the breakdown of his first marriage halfway through the book's composition). Others have defended the novel's curious ending as a poetically just reversal of the conventions of comic romance.[7][8]


  1. ^ Waugh Vile Bodies, p104.
  2. ^ Frick "Style and Structure".
  3. ^ Circus magazine, July 1973
  4. ^ Hastings Evelyn Waugh
  5. ^ McDonnell Evelyn Waugh.
  6. ^ Meyers Problem of Evil.
  7. ^ Hollis Evelyn Waugh.
  8. ^ O'Dea "What's in a Name?".

Further reading



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