CHRONICLES OF WASTED TIME, Vol. II: The Infernal Grove by Malcolm Muggeridge


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Often as spiculate as a hedgehog (although far mellower here and more slackly assertive than in the first volume of his ongoing memoirs), witty, opinionated and so very much a part of this world or rather his world which is so distractingly crowded with people from every walk of cultural and political life -- that omnipresence returns. So will his readership. Most of this book finds Muggeridge involved (perhaps not quite the right word -- he questions whether war is not just ""theatre"") in World War II, first as part of the Ministry of Information, then transferred to ""liaise"" with MI6. His liaise-ing was pretty vague if not inactive (even if he did know Kim Philby during most of this time) -- he spent a long stint in ""unctuous misery"" in Mozambique where he went as far in his thoughts of suicide as to walk into the water and out again. But entertaining anecdotes do of course emerge: for instance the instruction in spy training where he was told to write in various invisible inks with BS (bird shit) as a last and surely hard-come-by resort. A nice inset too on his surveillance of Wodehouse who had made a suspiciously Haw-Hawish broadcast from Berlin while actually it was only ill-advised. Rarely does Muggeridge really penetrate below what he calls the ""hub of events"" -- but there are intimations: his good friend Hugh Kingsmill triggered some of his first religio-mystical in excelsis experiences; comments on Simone Weil and Gide follow; and at the close, with that marvelous anecdote on the Webbs in their final containers -- one realizes that he is lifting his eyes Higher, ""Another Way had to be found and explored"" -- no doubt it will be in the closing volume to come. It will be interesting to see just how this vociferous, often cantankerous and dismissive, amusing, worldly character will make the ascent after rubbing shoulders so persistently with all those name-dropped notables.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1974
Publisher: Morrow