Item description for Helena (Loyola Classics) by Evelyn Waugh & George Weigel...
Overview The daughter of a British chieftain, suddenly betrothed to the warrior who becomes the Roman Emperor Constantius, spends all her time seeking truth in the religions and philosophies of the declining ancient world until she finds her answers in Christianity, literally in the Cross of Christ. Reissue.
Publishers Description "In Helena, the play of words and the fireworks, the exquisite descriptions of landscapes, and even the finished portraits of the heroine, her husband, and her son, are always subordinate to the author's broad vision of the mixed anguish and hope with which the world of Constantine's time was filled." --"New York Herald Tribune "" Helena] may be read on two levels of appreciation: As bright entertainment, or as deceptively profound commentary. On both levels it's a superlatively well done book." --"Chicago Tribune" Evelyn Waugh, author of the internationally acclaimed bestseller "Brideshead Revisited "and one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, considered Helena to be perhaps his finest novel. Based on the life of St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine and finder of the true cross, this spiritual adventure brings to life the political intrigues of ancient Rome and the early years of Christianity.
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Studio: Loyola Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 5" Height: 7" Weight: 0.36 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 2005
Publisher Loyola Press
Series Loyola Classics
ISBN 082942122X ISBN13 9780829421224
Availability 0 units.
More About Evelyn Waugh & George Weigel
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), whom Time called "one of the century's great masters of English prose," wrote several widely acclaimed novels as well as volumes of biography, memoir, travel writing, and journalism. Three of his novels, A Handful of Dust, Scoop, and Brideshead Revisited, were selected by the Modern Library as among the 100 best novels of the twentieth century.
Reviews - What do customers think about Helena (Loyola Classics)?
Queen of Hearts Jan 2, 2008
Prostitute, stable-hand, or British princess? The legends swirl around Helena, wife or mistress of Constantius Chlorus ("The Green"), a Roman officer who is eventually created co-Emperor. In this delicate, hilarious fantasy Waugh takes the advice of his friend and fellow convert to Catholicism, Ronald Knox; he goes "up the nursery stairs" to find Helena in rhymes of Old King Coel and tales of princesses in towers. Along the way he finds an ardent, imaginative, and entirely lovable girl who marries the dour and priggish Constantius, and is discarded by his ambitious divorce and re-marriage to become co-Emperor. In middle-age she sees her son Constantine become Emperor, extremely eccentric "Christian," and murderous tyrant. She retains her passion for life, and falls in love with the Church newly emerged from persecution. Waugh repeatedly refers to Heinrich Schliemann's similar attitude towards Homer and the legends of Troy. Stubbornly as any child, she searches for the solid objects of Christianity: A real, cheaply-constructed wooden cross; a smelly cave used as a stable in Bethlehem; stairs from a Roman governor's residence. Nothing is legendary or metaphorical to Helena, who identifies with the Magi, those royal astrologers journeying so far, compounding with the infanticidal Herod, presenting their curious gifts, and fading into legend. Her souvenirs are in the crypt of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, once the household chapel of the palace her son gave to her, wistful as a child's toys and as moving.
An Unusual Historical Novel Oct 15, 2007
"Helena" is not a typical historical novel--it is too self-conscious in its purpose, and Waugh fills the dialogue with Britishisms ("What a lark!" and "dearest Mummy"). It does, however, contain a subtle and emotional portrayal of how Helena, mother of Constantine, finds Christianity and the true cross. This is not a novel that will make you feel as if you are experiencing the time period, but it may speak to your emotions, despite its rather contrived form.
Coming To Grips With The Cross Oct 18, 2006
Evelyn Waugh is known for biting caustic satire and misogyny. He thinks nothing of killing small boys or tiny animals while scoring points against the bounders of society. His fiction contains more heartless, designing women then the back catalogs of ELO and Hall & Oates combined.
"Helena" (1950) is one odd novel from such a man. Satiric quips come thick and fast, but there's a rare and deep sense of emotional investment, too. And the hero is the title character, a woman named Helena who finds herself the victim of a designing husband for a change but shakes off her disappointment in search of something true and eternal, a hunger that eventually leads her to Christianity and sainthood.
Catholicism is the other thing Waugh is known for, and his trumping concern as far as "Helena" is concerned, a spiritual novel from the least spiritual of religiously-inclined writers. "The church isn't a cult for a few heroes," Helena is told by Pope Sylvester, advising her on what becomes her quest, to uncover the fragments of the Cross of the Crucifixion and bring them to the European heart of the Empire. "It is the whole of fallen mankind redeemed."
While based on the real life of the mother of the first Roman emperor to reputedly embrace Christ, Waugh takes some liberties. Helena starts out here a British princess, horse-mad and lusty, who catches the eye of the Roman royal Constantius. Waugh's treatment of ancient customs isn't too far afield of how he serves up early 20th century London. When Constantius asks Helena's father for his daughter's hand, and mentions he has a chance of becoming emperor, the father isn't all that impressed.
"Some of the emperors we've had lately, you know, have been nothing to make a song about," Poppa replies. "It's one thing burning incense to them and quite another having them in the family."
Waugh employs this sort of anachronistic tension throughout his narrative, presenting Helena's contemporaries as social strivers not at all different from the people of Waugh's own day (and ours.) He also writes some of his most affecting prose this side of "Brideshead Revisited," beautiful visions of nature, the ancient world, and a boy who comes home from fishing "to lay his dripping creel before his mother, proud as a dog with a rat." Readers of Robert Graves' Claudius books will recognize a similar style to Waugh's depictions of court intrigue, romance, and life and death.
Like another of Waugh's books, "Handful Of Dust," this is slightly flawed in pace and tone but a riveting read throughout, very different from his other novels yet in tune with Waugh's overall sensibility. Waugh called "Helena" his most successful novel, a verdict few share; yet it certainly represents a worthwhile stretching of his talents and ably communicates the sense of grace and purpose he drew from his faith often lacking even from his more famous works.
A different Waugh classic Jul 1, 2006
Normally, an Evelyn Waugh novel is funny from beginning until the dark end, which is typically still funny but often with some in-your-face bit of reality that bites.
_Helena_ is far from a comic (or dark comic) novel, yet it still has all of things that make a Waugh novel so good: the realistic dialogue, solid character development and detailed description that helps give the novel depth.
It's more like _Brideshead Revisited_ because of its more serious, dramatic feel, but if you like Waugh, you'll like _Helena_ (especially if you hang in there for an awesome ending).
Archly Funny but Still Respectful Mar 31, 2006
This is a very different sort of historical fiction. Waugh does evoke the time and place of the fourth Century Roman Empire but he never leaves you to really imaginatively enter into that world. He's always at your side, nudging the careful reader in the ribs to share a laugh at the expense of self-important intellectuals or effete no-talent artists trying to pass off their lack of ability as refined aesthetic sensibility. Some laughs, he throws in just for the fun of it and because he can (look for the thinly veiled nursery rhyme allusion on page 32).
There are a handful of passages that are worth the price of the book all by themselves: the account of Fausta's demise, the conversation between Constantine and the architect and artist working on his triumphal arch, and the prayer of Helena to the three Magi at the grotto in Bethlehem on the feast of Epiphany, to name just a few.
This volume is highly recommended, though much different than Waugh's more traditional biography of Edmund Campion, which has its own sort of excellence.