Friday, September 14, 2007

Grab Bag Friday: Wodehouse and the Berlin Broadcasts

After writing about Leave it to Psmith on Monday, I read something interesting that is apparently common knowledge to Wodehouse fans, but news to me. P.G. Wodehouse was held for nearly a year in a German internment camp during World War II, and shortly after began a series of humorous radio broadcasts from Berlin about his time in the camp. Here's a nice taste:
"Young men, starting out in life, have often asked me 'How can I become an Internee?' Well, there are several methods. My own was to buy a villa in Le Touquet on the coast of France and stay there till the Germans came along. This is probably the best and simplest system. You buy the villa and the Germans do the rest."
Well, the broadcasts were met with intense criticism from the English who felt that Wodehouse was betraying his country and sympathizing with the Nazis by broadcasting for the Germans. Harsh rumors about the author and the broadcasts flew wildly (you can read more about the various truths and fictions in this article from the Journal of Historical Review). In truth, post-war investigations claimed that the broadcasts and Wodehouse were innocent. Wodehouse himself gave this statement:
"I see now, of course, that I was tricked into making these talks, and I naturally feel a damned fool, but I hope I have made it clear that there was never anything in the nature of a bargain with the Germans. I was released before there was any suggestion of a broadcast, and there was never any idea that my freedom was dependant on my broadcasting"
The most interesting thing is that you don't have to take his word for it, or the word of the investigators, or the English critics, for that matter. You can read the entire text of the broadcasts online. P.G. Wodehouse Books has posted both the entirety of Wodehouse's explanation of the broadcasts and (at the bottom of the page) the transcriptions of all five broadcasts. It's a very interesting (and of course, being Wodehouse, light, humorous, and flippant) read.

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