O MacGuffin: Michael Bernard Wharton

segunda-feira, janeiro 30, 2006

Michael Bernard Wharton

Também, ou mais, conhecido por Peter Simple. Morreu, a 23 de Janeiro de 2006 (obituário aqui). Confesso que, não fosse um comentário em casa deste senhor há dois meses atrás, estaria agora na mesmíssima posição da generalidade (estou a ser simpático) dos escribas desta paróquia (Portugal): na mais pura e estupeficante ignorância. Natural. Em Portugal, a «estirpe» é completamente desconhecida. Causa até estranheza saber-se da existência de alguém que, durante cerca de cinquenta anos, manteve uma coluna num jornal sob a capa de uma persona, elevando a fasquia da qualidade literária em sede de jornalismo a níveis inéditos. A sagacidade, a ironia, o sarcasmo e o surrealismo com que pincelou os singularíssimos retratos da raça e natureza humanas – de onde se destaca uma endémica e quase sempre burlesca atracção pela imbecilidade – colocaram Wharton entre os maiores colunistas do século XX. Este é um momento triste. Mas feliz aquele que troca a ignorância pela tristeza.

He had a fine ear for human foolishness
por W.F. Deedes, in The Daily Telegraph

"When Michael Wharton and I worked in the Daily Telegraph office in Fleet Street, we would sometimes take lunchtime refreshment in an adjoining pub. His tipple was invariably a brandy and ginger ale. Even after a couple of these, his conversation was short on sparkle.
I never knew a man who kept what was going through his head so far apart from his conversation. Most pub talk among journalists is pretty ephemeral anyway; but we do occasionally rehearse to each other what we have in mind to put on paper. There was none of that with Wharton.
A year or two back when Wharton celebrated his 90th birthday this newspaper proposed that I visited his home in Buckinghamshire and interviewed him, since we were much the same age. It was not altogether a success, consisting as it did of a protracted version of our exchanges in the pub.
One quote from the interview I somehow wrung out of him illustrates my difficulty. We were running through some of his characters, me chattering my head off, Wharton for the most part silent, when I hit on his "sex-maniac haunted Sadcake Park." "Most of our parks today seem to be sex-maniac haunted," I observed, rather perceptively I thought.
All I got from Wharton for this shaft was a gloomy nod. Oh, come on, I said to myself, Sadcake Park is worth more than that. "A nubile woman," I persisted, "finds it increasingly difficult to cross our parks today, without being raped." "I suppose so," said Wharton.
It would be wrong from my experience of him to conclude that Wharton was a recluse. As he confesses freely in his autobiography, there were times in his life when he enjoyed getting hilariously drunk with the best of them. But like many close observers of the human race, he listened intently and he had a good ear.
When I asked him in the course of our interview which authors had influenced him and his style of writing, he replied "Evelyn Waugh, as a comic writer." There we have a clue to Wharton, for Waugh too had a wonderful ear for human foolishness. He listened, then he pounced.
Whenever I hear people laying blame on our society for some scandal, I think tenderly of Michael Wharton; for there will live on in the English language for a very long time that gem: "We are all guilty."”

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