Black Mischief
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Black Mischief

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,620 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Black Mischief, " Waugh's third novel, helped to establish his reputation as a master satirist. Set on the fictional African island of Azania, the novel chronicles the efforts of Emperor Seth, assisted by the Englishman Basil Seal, to modernize his kingdom. Profound hilarity ensues from the issuance of homemade currency, the staging of a "Birth Control Gala, " the rightful...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 30th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published 1932)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,925)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Although this is not my favourite novel by Waugh, it is undoubtedly an outrageously un-politically correct tale, set in an imagined African state. Waugh wrote the novel after a winter spent in East and Central Africa, which also resulted in a non-fiction work Remote People (Penguin Modern Classics). The imaginary state of Azania may be remote, but new Emperor, Seth, has been Oxford educated and is desperate to bring modernity to his confused population. "I am the New Age. I am the Future" he dec...more
I have previously really enjoyed 'Scoop', 'A Handful of Dust', and 'Decline and Fall', and had heard good things about this book. Primarily I had heard that it was very funny. Whilst it certainly has a few moments of laugh out loud hilarity overall I thought it was a somewhat incoherent and inconsistent read.

One of the most striking things for a modern reader is the incessant casual racism that peppers the book. That said it's mainly just racist epithets, although there are a few obvious stereo...more
Its a hoot from the very first page. Sustained hilarity from the first page to the last. A riot! A treasure! A scream. Its going on my 'laugh-out-loud' list.

You rarely see this level of comedy displayed in a novel. Its like one long, detailed, erudite, madcap Monty Python sketch but told with utterly taut deadpan restraint. 'Black Mischief' is the very last word in making fun of colonialism. If you ever thought the English dry or humorless; read Waugh. This is truly the pillar of all the Britis...more
Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, published in 1932, recounts the unfortunate attempts of Seth, sovereign of the mythical East African Empire of Azania, to modernise his dominions. In this he is aided (although perhaps aided is the wrong word) by Basil Seal, an unscrupulous an incompetent English adventurer. Black Mischief has been accused of racism but in fact the British and French are lampooned every bit as mercilessly as the Africans. In other books Waugh gleefully ridiculed Americans as well (...more
Сблъсъкът между цивилизацията и варварския свят и интригите в борбата за трона са често повтаряни епизоди в историята, преексплоатирани в литературата и трудно биха предизвикали интерес или изненада. Но не и когато са поднесени от Ивлин Уо.

Измисленият от него остров Азания, сглобен от спомените му за местата в Африка, където е живял, приютява туземни племена и колоритни пришълци от цял свят. Докато е разтърсван от гражданска война, младият му император, оксфордски възпитаник, е твърдо решен да г...more
Howard Olsen

Waugh’s third novel is a departure from his first two classic satires of British society. For one thing, Black Mischief is largely set on the fictional East African island nation of Azania, although most of the characters are Brits. Second, Waugh actually has a plot that can be neatly summarized; namely that Basil Seal is a bit of a wastrel MP who travels to Azania where he hooks up with the Oxford educated Azanian Emperor Seth, who wants to bring Progressive Soviet-style governmen...more
Florence Penrice
What those who object to this book seem to miss is that NO ONE is immune to Waugh's satire. Everybody, apart from poor Seth, going mad amidst the chaos, is mercilessly ridiculed. It seems such a shame to miss the fun of the menu for the ball (with all the vitamin groups covered), and life in the diplomatic compound, for what seems to me to be a knee-jerk reaction.
Mr. Waugh's brilliant, wry sense of humour keeps me coming back for more.

Anyone who dismisses this as racism is a twat who understands neither history nor satire.
Alice Handley
Totally hilarious but kind of embarassing to read on the bus in Oakland.
Evelyn Waugh travelled in several countries in East Africa. This novel is set in the fictitious island country of Azania, which is an amalgamation of several African countries and Waugh's imagination. He remorselessly satirises colonial officials who have no idea what is going on in the countries they are supposed to be administering, inept Western educated African leaders attempting to modernise their countries, corrupt opportunistic businessmen and even the 'bright young things' back home who...more
Chris Gould
Brilliant double-meaning in the title, and a brilliant story. It's hilarious, especially when forlorn young Emperor Seth, straight out of Oxford University, returns to his homeland and with the help of Basil Seal tries to explain the concept of contraception to his countrymen. He prepares these wonderful posters of a before and after image, in an attempt to illustrate the hardships suffered by families who have too many kids. Total failure to understand local culture, and the fact that posters a...more
Dearest Evelyn, what to make of your uneven and thoroughly racist Black Mischief? Your apologists claim that it lampoons everyone, usually adding: "especially the Europeans", but there's a more than a shade of difference between aloof & irrelevant (Sir Sampson et al) and too stupid to civilize (Seth et al).

The quality of your writing is wonderful and there's plenty of laughs to be had in the first two thirds. Ultimately, however, the work collapses once you have to find some way to move to...more
Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh

Instead of a spoiler alert- this could give you little information about Black Mischief and some idea about the thoughts of this reader when encountering the African emperors and characters of this book.

There is a tendency in all amateur reviewers to go beyond writing about someone else’s book and put in script personal emotions and feelings. That could make the difference between a resume and a review. There is also graphomania to consider and the tests that prove...more
Elizabeth Moffat
This is only the second book I have read of Waugh's and I appreciated his wit and satire indiscriminate of class, colour or race. However, some parts of the novel made me slightly uncomfortable although I enjoyed his writing style.

Please see my full review at
Evelyn Waugh is a great satirical writer and books such as 'Scoop', 'Officers and Gentlemen', and 'Men at Arms' draw upon caricatures of the upper classes and lampoon the society in which they move. 'Black Mischief' seeks to do the same thing with an emerging African republic in the 1930's. The various characters are well drawn, English and French ambassadors with their families and embassy staffs, tribal Chieftains with their entourages, and the situations which arise are at the very least humo...more
David Fulmer
This is English writer Evelyn Waugh’s third novel and its hilariously absurd story involving an East African graduate of Oxford who becomes emperor of a primitive island and attempts to modernize his backward people shows Waugh at the absolute peak of his comedic genius. Seth is the name of the emperor, or as he refers to himself in the formal and florid letters he dictates: “Seth, Emperor of Azania, Chief of the Chiefs of Sakuyu, Lord of Wanda and Tyrant of the Seas, Bachelor of the Arts of Oxf...more
От блога:

Гледали ли сте на театър прословутата постановка на Добри Войников "Криворазбраната цивилизация"?

Писана през 30-те години на XX век "Черна пакост" е нещо подобно, но в един по-черен вариант. Това е произведение, което пародира с изкривените взаимоотношения и контакти между различните култури, като Ивлин Уо е избрал твърде интересно място - измисленият остров Азания, който се намира източно от Сомалия, там където се преплитат културите на Субасаха...more
Bit of an odd one, this. One of Waugh’s relatively early novels, you can see the similarities with the excellent Scoop. To the reader today, however, the racism jars. And of course one hopes it is ironic and that the writer is mocking it but, actually, he isn’t, I am afraid. There are many things he is mocking and he does so brilliantly, especially the insouciant complacency of the British upper class. But imperial prejudice against other races is not his target, sadly.

The story is essentially a...more
Simply hilarious. I kept wondering how it could be written by the same Evelyn Waugh who wrote Brideshead Revisited. Although Brideshead is the loftier and more ambitious work, the scathingly good satire of Black Mischief is clearly more Waugh's forte.

The book tracks the political upheavals of a fictitious independent African nation in the age of European imperialism and the efforts of the nation's Oxford-trained emperor to "modernize" his country. To bring his people into the 20th Century, the e...more
Lorenzo Berardi
I lost my track somewhere in Azania a couple of weeks ago.
Now it's all darkness around me.

What I can recall is that this novel has one of the most exhilarating and sarcastic beginnings I have ever found.

Quoting Waugh:
'We, Seth, Emperor of Azania, Chief of the Chiefs of Sakuyu, Lord of Wanda and Tyrant of the Seas, Bachelor of the Arts of Oxford University, being in this the twenty-fourth year of our life, summoned by the wisdom of Almighty God and the unanimous voice of our people to the thron...more
This comedy has to be regarded as a product of its era (1932) as there are quite a lot of non PC words and casual racism, although the British diplomatic corps come off the worst. The plot concerns a new ruler of a small African state, Seth, who wants to modernise his country. He is aided, if this is the right word, by Basil, a seedy English acquaintance from his days at Oxford, and Mr Youkoumian, the local entrepreneur. If you accept the book for what it is, it is very funny in places.
Vikas Datta
Another cautionary tale about the perils of forcing development, progress and other 'alien concepts and constructs' on a society rooted in old traditions and loath to go of them... A wicked tale with its depiction of a well-meaning but unwise monarch, diplomats both duplicitous and fatuous and a host of other characters with their own beliefs and agendas in cooperation and conflict with each other right down to the 'downer' and shocking, in fact, slightly nauseous, denouement.
I feel this may get better the more I stew over it, but my first impression is that I didn't really care for this work by Waugh. I would recommend all others over this one.

It was a comic satire of imperial and aristocratic buffoonery, but did not hold my attention overall. I chuckled at key scenes which included the French legation or Dame Mildred, but the book felt disconnected almost.
Classic Waugh: As always, he's a beautiful stylist, funny, erudite, insightful -- and very disturbing. The book is set in a fictional East African country. Waugh makes fun of clueless English colonialists, the way even the smartest of them don't understand what they're interfering with and ultimately do more harm than good, even to themselves. He makes fun of scheming French imperialists who blithely instigate massive destruction, of querulous Arab and self-serving Indian settlers, of African le...more
Haythem Bastawy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It's very funny, but you're rather afraid to like it, it's so, um, wrong. I don't think I would recommend it to anyone unless they've already read Vile Bodies, Decline and Fall and well, just about everything else first.
Black Mischief is a ruthlessly witty sendup of modernization, colonization, uncivilized culture, civilized culture, and almost everything else. As one of Waugh's earlier novels, it lacks the miraculously beautiful prose of later writing (and I don't just mean Brideshead; even his mature comedies ascend into poetry at times) though there are glimmers of the greatness to come. It is, however, polished and wildly funny. I have always admired Waugh's knack for absolutely reveling in black humor wit...more
Sigh. I love Evelyn Waugh, but I really had to force myself to finish this one. The over-the-top satire got to me.
Da un po' sentivo parlare di questo autore. poi mi hanno regalato questo libro, e dopo averlo lasciato poltrire sullo scaffale per un po', un giorno ho deciso di aprirlo.
Viene definito un libro umoristico, o meglio, satirico. Però non sono riuscita a leggerlo come tale. Forse perché all'inizio l'ho preso molto seriamente, forse perché è un tipo di satira che non mi si addice, ma non l'ho capito ed apprezzato fino in fondo. Urge una rilettura, con gli occhi un pochino più aperti, in fondo ho come...more
Even great writers have the sophomore blues. This had some quite funny moments, but the overall story was rather a downer. Some of the thematic elements of colonialism and empire were difficult to relate to, mostly because they relied too heavily on the specific thoughts/feelings of the time/place of 30s Britain. If those themes were conveyed in a way more easier to relate to it would have had more impact. Think "insert relevant gag from the current events here" only more serious satire about co...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 97 98 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Bright Young Things: Colonialism 7 14 Oct 09, 2013 12:18AM  
Bright Young Things: Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh 40 68 Sep 17, 2013 11:08AM  
  • The Unbearable Bassington
  • Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
  • Augustus Carp, Esq. By Himself Being The Autobiography Of A Really Good Man
  • Whisky Galore
  • Before Lunch
  • The Wimbledon Poisoner
  • Molesworth
  • Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf
  • Pictures from an Institution
  • Brewster's Millions
  • Towards the End of the Morning
  • Mister Johnson
  • Topper Takes a Trip
  • The History Man
  • Less Than Angels
  • According to Queeney
  • The Mighty Walzer
  • A Fairy Tale of New York
Evelyn Waugh's father Arthur was a noted editor and publisher. His only sibling Alec also became a writer of note. In fact, his book “The Loom of Youth” (1917) a novel about his old boarding school Sherborne caused Evelyn to be expelled from there and placed at Lancing College. He said of his time there, “…the whole of English education when I was brought up was to produce prose writers; it was al...more
More about Evelyn Waugh...
Brideshead Revisited A Handful of Dust Scoop Vile Bodies The Loved One

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“We,Seth, Emperor of Azania, Chief of the Chiefs of Sakuyu, Lord of Wanda and Tyrant of the Seas, Bachelor of the Arts of Oxford University, being in this the twenty-fourth year of our life, summoned by the wisdom of Almighty God and the unanimous voice of our people to the throne of our ancestors, do hereby proclaim ...” 0 likes
More quotes…