Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pyelem G Vudhaus

Encouraging news from Russia in The Telegraph today
An expression of dreamy euphoria crossed the face of Sir Watkyn Bassett, collector of antique silver and nemesis of the hapless Bertie Wooster.

On the stage of Moscow's Cleopatra restaurant, a bearded Honky Tonk band was playing Irving Berlin. Nearby a group of girls in their evening finery debated which of Bertie's aunts was the most detestable.

The d├ęcor may have been decidedly New Russian and the food served by the waiters khachapuri - a sort of Georgian pizza - rather than Dover Sole. But for Sir Watkyn, alias Mikhail Kuzmenko, it was as though the restaurant had been transformed into the dining hall of Blandings Castle or the Drones Club.

Outlawed by Stalin in 1929, P G Wodehouse - or Pyelem G Vudhaus as he is known - has undergone a remarkable revival since the ban on his books was lifted in 1990.

As president and founder of the Russian Wodehouse Society he has attracted over 3,000 members, some from as far away as Cheliabinsk and Omsk, thousands of miles to the east. His monthly Wodehouse dinners at the Cleopatra and elsewhere are always sold out.

In a week when I have been gifted a copy of Michael Frayn's long out of print 1963 "Best of Beachcomber", is there a hint of a revival of classic British humourists in the air? Civilisation can only benefit. For the avoidance of doubt, be advised that I unhesitatingly include Vivian Stanshall, the Ginger Geezer, in that august company.

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