Jack was posted to Tobruk to help reorganise this important port, but fell ill with jaundice and was hospitalised for several weeks. The job had been passed to another by the time he recovered, and he was sent to join Reggie Fellowes in Iraq.
6/1/42 9th General Hospital My baggage was last heard of on the way to Tobruk by truck, and as it contains vols 2 and 3 of War and Peace, (and I’m getting towards the end of vol 1,) plus Hogben and my Arabic book, it’s all rather a pity. However, there’s a small library here and I’ve found a new Masefield and a Dornford Yates fairy story, The Stolen March which I’m rather fond of.
7/1/42 I’m reading War and Peace and Gulliver’s Travels as meat, and a book a day from the rather meagre library here. The one disappointing thing is not to be surrounded by exciting books. I read Dornford Yates’ Stolen March yesterday. It’s just not good enough, too snobbish and sentimental. A pity, as the fairy story part is excellent. Then Masefield, who’s an amazingly good storyteller and takes great delight in doing just that. Then I’ve got A Modern Tragedy by Phyllis Bentley, Cherry Tree by Adrian Bell, The Man who was Thursday by Chesterton and The First Men on the Moon by Wells.
12/1/42 I’m really having rather fun. (Still in hospital with jaundice) I’ve been lucky in books lately — Compton Mackenzie’s “Buttercups and Daisies”, “The Missing Moneylender”, an excellent detective story, and now “Ariel” by Andre Maurois, about Shelley, and very good. It’s fun to relax completely and read and read, all light unimportant stuff, and have time to write to you properly, listen to the wireless and doze off when you feel like it. It’s a fair and natural reaction to 2 ½ years’ hard work and heavy responsibility. I’ve got “Lily Christine” of Michael Arlen’s to read next. I’ve never read him for some reason. I’ve just read the first volume of Gulliver’s Travels and the first volume of War and Peace. I don’t know what I think about the classics. Gulliver is nothing much, not a patch on Alice in Wonderland or Robinson Crusoe, and the much boosted satire is very tame. It’s quite fun but that’s all. I suppose in Swift’s day it was still an exceptional achievement to write at all, and to write about anything even faintly amusing was brilliant. After all staple reading right up to 1850 was sermons, and ponderous latinical expositions on virtue and vice, all so boring and childish as to be quite beneath contempt. Then what about old Tolstoy? He’s quite fun and I shall certainly finish it. But is it so very wonderful? The descriptions of the war, tho’ tense and probably accurate and certainly vivid in an elliptical sort of way, are not as good as half the after-the-Great-War books like Sergeant Grischa, Undertone of War, Her Privates We, and all the rest of them. His society stuff has been better done by many writers and the whole effect to me is a bit disjointed. I don’t mean I don’t enjoy it. It may be that the respective backgrounds of Swift and Tolstoy make their achievements remarkable in relation to them. But you can’t say that about Boswell, or Dickens whose novels hold you and leave the characters with you afterwards. I’ve conceived no tremendous impression of Prince Andrew or Peter. Following this line of thought, I’ve got a book here called “Great Short Stories of the World”. I’ve read three, two ancient Egyptian and one Anglo-Saxon. Again, they’re probably very interesting historically, but as short stories they don’t begin. However, there are some modern ones later which may be better. I think one is very well qualified to judge books in bed.
21/1/43 I’m reading “Store of Ladies” by Louis Golding, which is rather good.
21/2/43 Reggie (Fellowes) has lent me a fascinating book, which you must immediately get — Joseph Davies’ Mission to Moscow. (Gollancz). His sympathetic but ultra-capitalistic approach is a good corrective to Fischer’s idealist and “left deviationist” approach. Also Sir John Orr’s book, for which many thanks.
14/3/43 Evelyn Waugh’s book “Put Out More Flags”, which I borrowed and read last night… I’ve just read a very good book, “ Brief History of the United States”, by Allan Navins, Oxford Press, for use in English schools
5/7/43 Reading Orphan Island, an excellent Rose Macaulay Penguin, and a Peter Cheyney, who doesn’t read as well as he used to. This is a charming place which I’ll tell you more about when I don’t have to pretend you don’t know where it is.
20/9/43 If you’ve got any good books in mind, you might send me some, as I’m getting low. I’m reading a borrowed copy of The Grapes of Wrath.