Evelyn Waugh has a mission, and it’s not merely to live down his parents’ admiration for his literary namesake. His mission is to use more direct methods than literary ridicule to undermine the self-regard of those who see themselves as the beneficent shepherds of a wayward herd.
His colleague, Jessica James, more astute than he, finds ways to guide his plans so that both their ends are served.
Their target, Phil S Stein, the Minister of Aesthetics, fails to see the trap they have prepared for him at The Writers’ Retreat. He gambles on gaining more exposure in the elite press as he assumes direct control of The Retreat and chairs a joint meeting of the writing workshop groups meeting under its aegis.
With a large press corps in attendance, Stein is horrified to find that each ‘reading’ becomes progressively more critical of the actions and principles of the government and party which hold his allegiance.
The evening’s concluding press conference dissolves in chaos as Stein flees from accusations that he is attempting a coup. Evelyn and Jessica congratulate one another and speculate about their next target.