1940: The man on the left is American journalist Angus Thuermer, an obscure figure now and an obscure figure even then but one whose career choices allowed him to become a bemused witness to history on at least two occasions (he was later a CIA spokesman during the time of Watergate.) The man on the right is not so obscure. It's P.G. Wodehouse, the celebrated author who wrote humorous stories about the British upper-class, most notably those involving the young aristocratic halfwit Bertie Wooster and his supremely capable valet Jeeves, who earned much of his pay bailing his employer out of whatever trouble he had gotten himself into. Wodehouse had been a successful writer for going on three decades now, had earned himself a lot of money, so one might expect this interview to be taking place in some country estate, maybe a penthouse, or perhaps a posh hotel suite, but no, it instead took place in...
...in a German-run prison for enemy nationals.
So how in the world did a man who wrote stuff like this:
“Oh, Jeeves," I said. "About that check suit."
"A trifle too bizarre, sir, in my opinion."
"But lots of fellows have asked me who my tailor is."
"Doubtless in order to avoid him, sir."
"He's supposed to be one of the best men in London."
"I am saying nothing against his moral character, sir.”
Besides, isn't there something in the book of rules about a man may not marry his cousin? Or am I thinking of grandmothers?
I hadn't heard the door open, but the man was on the spot once more. My private belief, as I think I have mentioned before, is that Jeeves doesn't have to open doors. He's like one of those birds in India who bung their astral bodies about--the chaps, I mean, who having gone into thin air in Bombay, reassemble the parts and appear two minutes later in Calcutta. Only some such theory will account for the fact that he's not there one moment and is there the next. He just seems to float from Spot A to Spot B like some form of gas.
"Goodbye, Bertie," he said, rising.
I seemed to spot an error.
"You mean 'Hullo,' don't you?"
"No, I don't. I mean goodbye. I'm off."
"To the kitchen garden. To drown myself."
"Don't be an ass."
"I'm not an ass...Am I an ass, Jeeves?"
"Possibly a little injudicious, sir."
"Drowning myself, you mean?"
"You think, on the whole, not drown myself?"
"I should not advocate it, sir."
"Very well, Jeeves. I accept your ruling. After all, it would be unpleasant for Mrs. Travers to find a swollen body floating in her pond."
“What ho!" I said.
"What ho!" said Motty.
"What ho! What ho!"
"What ho! What ho! What ho!"
After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.”
“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, 'Do trousers matter?'"
"The mood will pass, sir.”
...end up under the thumb of somebody who wrote stuff like this?:
The application of force alone, without support based on a spiritual concept, can never bring about the destruction of an idea or arrest the propagation of it, unless one is ready and able to ruthlessly to exterminate the last upholders of that idea even to a man, and also wipe out any tradition which it may tend to leave behind.
The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Goebbels' outfit) that would then be aired in the still-officially isolationist United States. Actually, I don't know if they were that polite about it, but Wodehouse agreed. The five broadcasts together were titled How to be an Internee Without Previous Training, and were made up of humorous anecdotes of POW life ("If this is Upper Silesia, I'd hate to see what Lower Silesia is like.") They were essentially non-political, and Wodehouse hardly endorsed the German war effort, but didn't denounced it either.
...The Hamptons (hey, a war refugee has to go somewhere.) Wodehouse became a U.S. citizen in 1955, and continued to have books published on a yearly basis until his death in 1975. Shortly before he died, the forgiving British decided to knight him, but the long trip to his native land (which he hadn't laid eyes on since the 1930s) would have been too much for a man in his 90s. In 1999, a newly released intelligence document revealed that British officials in 1946 had second thoughts about letting him go free, and it was recommended that if he ever return to the United Kingdom, he be tried for treason.
So what to make of all this? Was he secretly a Nazi sympathizer, as some have alleged, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Wodehouse wrote 71 books in his life, and gave numerous interviews, but thanks to his witty elusiveness, it's difficult to pin down how he felt about anything. He spent his life writing about the British upper-class, but the magistrate's son, despite the money he made, never actually was one of them. Did he like that upper-class, or despise it? His stories can be read either way. His work has been enjoyed by both liberals and conservatives (as well as fascists and communists.)
My best guess is that P.G. Wodehouse was both Wooster and Jeeves. He could get in trouble, but was supremely capable enough to get himself back out.