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Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) - also called Joseph Kell, original name Jon Anthony Burgess Wilson

 

English novelist, composer, and critic, whose novels are characterized by verbal inventiveness and social satire. Burgess has also written several biographies. However, the author's first love was music: he composed a number of works before publishing his first books. Among Burgess's best-known novels is A Clockwork Orange (1962).

"'What's going to be then, eh?'
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard through dry."
(the beginning of A Clockwork Orange)

John Anthony Burgess Wilson was born in Manchester into a Catholic middle-class family. His father was a cashier and pub pianist. After his mother died in the flu pandemic of 1919, he was brought up by a maternal aunt and later by a stepmother. Burgess studied at Xaverian College and Manchester University, where he read English language and literature, graduating in 1940. During World War II Burgess served in the Royal Army Medical corps, leaving the army as a sergeant-major. In 1942 he married Llwela Isherwood Jones, who died of alcoholic cirrhosis in 1968.

From 1946 to 1950 Burgess lectured at Birmingham University, he was the Ministry of Education lecturer in phonetics, and taught at Banbury Grammar School. Until 1959 Burgess wrote comparatively little, but primararily studied music composition. His first novel, A Vision of Battlement, was completed in 1949 but published in 1965. It was loosely based on the Aeneid and showed the influence of Joyce. The Worm and the Ring, which drew on his experiences as a grammar school teacher, was withdrawn and pulped soon after its appearance in 1961 as the result of a libel action. Mersa Matruh  (1956), a war story published by Digit Books, was set in a North African holiday resort which became the front line town in September, 1940.

In 1954 Burgess became an education officer in Malaya and Brunei, and wrote during this time his trilogy Time for a Tiger (1956), The Enemy in the Blanket (1958), and Beds in the East (1959). Later he said that "Malaya acted as a midwife to a wordly gift that had an inordinately long gestation." The work juxtaposed the progressive disintegration of a hapless British civil servant, Victor Crabbe, against the birth of Malayan independence. At the time of its appearance, the trilogy attracted relatively little attention.

After collapsing in classroom at the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin College in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Burgess returned to England. "One day in the classroom I decided that I'd had enough... I just lay down on the floor." Later Burgess told, that he was diagnosed as having a cerebral tumor, and given twelve months to live. It has been suggested, that the story was fabricated – there's no medical evidence for his too early death sentence. However, Burgess set off a rush of literary activity and lived another 33 years. He wrote feverishly, producing over fifty books and hundreds of journalistic pieces. His first wife Lynne proposed the pseudonym Anthony Powell and her second suggestion was Anthony Gilwern. Burgess was the maiden name of John Wilson's mother. He also used the pseudonym Joseph Kell and once reviewed Kell's novel Inside Mr Enderby (1963) for the Yorkshire Post; when the editor sent him the author's novel – Burgess thought it was a practical joke but it wasn't. Burgess himself wrote letters to the editor of the Daily Mail as Mohamed Ali, an outraged Pakistani moralist. 

In 1959 Burgess devoted himself entirely to writing, living since in Malta, Italy, US, and Monaco. Upon learning that the Catholic Church in Malta had banned Desmond Morris's book The Naked Ape, he delivered a lecture at Malta's Royal University, demanding that the book should be removed from the Banned List. As as result, the Maltese authorities confiscated his car, a much-loved Morgan, and his house, which then stood empty. Desmond Morris, who lived in a village next to his, defended on a TV debate Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of his novel, A Clockwork Orange (1962). The character in the film who appeared as "the writer" was the author himself. 

Between the years 1960 and 1964 Burgess wrote eleven novels. The Wanting Seed (1962) depicted an overpopulated England of the future, caught up in the alternating cycles of libertarianism and totalitarianism. A Clockwork Orange, a science fiction fable, made him famous as a satirical novelist. This work was born from the growth of teenage gangs and the universal application of B.F. Skinner's behavior theories in prisons, asylums, and psychiatric clinics. In 1961 Burgess had also observed the stilyaqi, gangs of young thugs, in Leningrad.

A Clockwork Orange is set in a future London and is told in nadsat, a mixture of Russian, English and American slang, gypsy talk and, odd bits of Jacobean prose. Burgess has given at least three explanations for the title of the book. One is that it is a Cockney expression ("as queer as a clockwork orange"), which he overheard in a London pub in 1945. In an essay published in the Listener, Burgess claimed that the title was a pun on the Malay word orang, meaning man. And the third explanation is that the title is a metaphor for "an organic entity, full of juice and sweetness and agreeable odour, being turned into an automaton." (prefatory note to A Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music, 1987) Gary Dexter has suggested in Why Not Catch-21 (2007) that Burgess had misheard in the pub "Chocolate Orange", a part of everyday speech in 1940 London, as "a clockwork orange".

Alex, the main character, is a juvenile delinquent, who rapes and kills people with his "droogs" (friends). The scene, in which the gang rapes the writer's wife, was based on a true event according to Burgess– his first wife was attacked by a gang of American army deserters during WW II. (Roger Lewis, his biographer, found no evidence for the rape.) Eventually Alex is captured, and brainwashed by the Ludovico technique to change his murderous aggressions. As an unexpected side effect of the Pavlovian treatment he starts to hate Beethoven's music, his unspoiled self. The central question of the story is a philosophical one: is an "evil" human being with free will preferable to a "good" citizen without it? The character of Alex, played in the film by Malcolm McDowell, gained cult status. Kubrick later withdrew his film following a moral panic about a copycat killing allegedly performed by a youth wearing the costume of Alex and his droogs.

A Clockwork Orange received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay but critics were on the whole furious. Kauline Kael wrote in the New Yorker (January 1, 1972): "Literal-minded in its sex and brutality, Teutonic in its humor, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange might be the work of a strict and exacting German professor who set out to make a porno-violent sci-fi comedy. Is there anything sadder – and ultimately more repellent – than a clean-minded pornographer?... How can people go on talking about the dazzling brilliance of movies and not notice that the directors are sucking up to the thugs in the audience?" – The original British Heineman edition includes a final chapter that anticipates a future for Alex wherein he chooses a law-abiding life. The American Norton version ends with Alex reverting to his natural, evil self, in the hospital. "But you, O my brothers, remember sometimes the little Alex that was. Amen. And all that cal."

Burgess returned to the questions of A Clockwork Orange in the humorous novel Enderby (1968), which followed the travels of a non-conforming poet in England and the continent. In the sequel, The Clockwork Testament; or, Enderby's End  (1975) the hero, Burgess's alter ego, lived in New York. The book was a merciless assault on American media and academia, and the decline of language.

In 1968 Burgess married Liliana Macellari, a translator and daughter of La Contessa Maria Lucrezia Pasi Piani della Pergola. They spent much of their time on the Continent – although he managed to appear frequently on TV chat shows and as a columnist in British newspapers. When he appeared on BBC's Newsnight immediately after the death of author Graham Greene, Burgess could not help talking about himself. In 1970-71 Burgess was a visiting professor at Princeton University, a Distinguished Professor at the City College of New York (1972-72), and a writer-in-residence at the University of New York at Buffalo (1976). He was appointed in 1972 a literary adviser to the Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, in 1972.

Burgess published in the 1970s and 1980s some thirty books, among them  The Earthly Powers (1980). "I write a thousand words a day," Burgess once said. "At that rate you'll write War and Peace in a year... or very near the entire output of E.M. Forster." The Earthly Powers is considered by many critics Burgess's finest novel. It was narrated by an 81-year-old successful, homosexual writer, Kenneth Toomey, a figure loosely based on W. Somerset Maugham. The novel also had many jokes about other major literary figures. The Kingdom of the Wicked (1985) takes the first years of Christianity as its subject.

Burgess wrote film scripts and several critical studies – he was a specialist in Shakespeare and Joyce. In 1972 he signed a three-year contract as playwright-in-residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre. His musical compositions include symphonies, a ballet, and an opera. Burgess's autobiographies, Little Wilson and Big God (1987) and You've Had Your Time (1990) reveal a more self-doubting person than the one that was his public image. Burgess's third symphony was performed at the University of Iowa in 1975, and his musical version of Ulyssess, Blooms and Dublin, was performed on radio on the centenary of James Joyce's death.

For further information: The Consolation of Ambiguity: An Essay on the Novels of Anthony Burgess by R.K. Morris (1971); Anthony Burgess by C. Dix (1972); Anthony Burgess by A..A. DeVitis (1972); Anthony Burgess: A Bibliography by P. Boytinck (1977); Anthony Burgess: An Enumerative Bibliography by Jeutonne Brewer (1980); Anthony Burgess by Samuel Coale (1981); Anthony Burgess: A Study in Character by Martina Ghosg-Schellhorn (1986); Anthony Burgess Revisited, by John J. Stinson (1992, Twayne's English Author Series, No 482); Anthony Burgess by Roger Lewis (2002); The Real Life of Anthony Burgess by Andrew Biswell (2007)

Selected works:

  • Mersa Matruh, 1956 (as John Wilson)
    - Aavikon hiekkaa (suom. Matti Hossa, 1973)
  • The Malayan Trilogy (US title: The Long Day Wanes): Time for a Tiger, 1956 (published under the name Anthony Burgess); The Enemy in the Blanket, 1958; Beds in the East, 1959
  • English Literature: A Survey for Students, 1958 (as John Burgess Wilson)
  • The Doctor is Sick, 1960
    - Pipopää potilas (suom. Inkeri Uusitalo, 1973)
  • The Right to an Answer, 1960
  • The Worm and the Ring, 1960
  • One Hand Clapping, 1961 (as Joseph Kell)
  • Devil of a State, 1961
  • The New Aristocrats / Michel de Saint Pierre, 1962 (translator, with Lynne Burgess)
  • The Olive Trees of Justice /Jean Pelegri, 1962 (translator, with Lynne Wilson)
  • The Wanting Seed, 1962
  • A Clockwork Orange, 1962
    - Kellopeliappelsiini (suomentanut Moog Konttinen, 1991)
    - films: Vinyl, 1965, dir. by Andy Warhol, screenplay by Ronald Tavel; A Clockwork Orange, 1971, directed by Stanley Kubrick starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke
  • Honey for the Bears, 1963
  • Inside Mr. Enderby, 1963 (as Joseph Kell)
  • The Novel To-day, 1963
  • The Eve of St. Venus, 1964
  • Language Made Plain, 1964
  • Nothing Like the Sun, 1964
  • The Man Who Robbed Poor Boxes / Jean Servin, 1965 (translator)
  • Tremor of Intent: An Eschatological Spy Novel, 1965 (as John Wilson)
    - Peli kahdelle pelaajalle (suom. Kaarina Jaatinen, 1971)
  • Here Comes Everybody: An Introduction to James Joyce for the Ordinary Reader, 1965
  • A Vision of Battlements, 1965
  • The Coaching Days of England (1750-1859), 1966 (ed.)
  • The Age of the Grand Tour (1720-1820), 1966 (ed., with Francis Haskell)
  • Tremor of Intent, 1966
  • The Journal of the Plague Year / Daniel Defoe, 1966 (ed. with C. Bristow)
  • The Novel Now, 1967
  • Enderby Outside, 1968
  • Urgent Copy: Literary Studies, 1968
  • James Joyce: A Shorter 'Finnegans Wake', 1969 (ed.)
  • Malaysian Stories / W. Somerset Maugham, 1969 (ed.)
  • Shakespeare, 1970
  • M/F, 1971
  • Cyrano de Bergerac /Edmond Rostand, 1971 (translator; second version 1985)
  • Oedipus the King / Sophocles, 1972 (translator)
  • Joysprick: An Introduction to the Language of James Joyce, 1973
  • Obscenity and the Arts, 1973 (lecture)
  • Napoleon Symphony: A Novel in Four Movements, 1974
  • The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End, 1974
  • Moses - the Lawgiver, 1975 (televisio play, with others)
    - TV mini-series, dir. by Gianfranco De Bosio, starring Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quayle, Ingrid Thulin, Irene Papas
  • A Long Trip to Tea Time, 1976
  • New York, 1976 (with editors of Time-Life books)
  • Beard's Roman Women, 1976
  • Moses: A Narrative, 1976
  • Abba Abba, 1977
  • Will and Testament: A Fragment of Biography, 1977
  • A Christmas Recipe, 1977
  • Jesus of Nazareth, 1977 (film script with others)
    - TV mini-series dir. by Franco Zeffirelli, starring Robert Powell, Anne Bancroft
  • Ernest Hemingway and his World, 1978
  • 1985, 1978
  • Scrissero in Inglese, 1979 (They Wrote in English)
  • Man of Nazareth, 1979
  • The Land Where the Ice Cream Grows, 1979
    - Siellä missä jäätelö kasvaa (suom. Satu Marttila, 1980)
  • Earthly Powers, 1980
  • Quest for Fire, 1981 (screenplay)
  • A Kind of Failure, 1981 (television documentary)
  • This Man and Music, 1982
  • Cavalier of the Rose / Richard Strauss, 1982 (story adaptation, libretto by Hofmannstahl, music by Richard Strauss)
  • The End of the World News: An Entertainment, 1982
  • On Going To Bed, 1982
  • Enderby's Dark Lady, or No End of Enderby, 1984
  • Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939: A Personal Choice, 1984
  • The Kingdom of the Wicked, 1985
  • A.D., 1985 (television play)
    - TV mini-series directed by Stuart Cooper, starring James Mason, Ava Gardner, John McEnery, Anthony Andrews
  • The Childhood of Christ, 1985 (television play)
  • Carl Maria von Weber's Oberon Old and New, 1985 (play, original libretto by James Robinson Planché, music by Carl Maria von Weber)
  • Flame Into Being: The Life and Work of D. H. Lawrence, 1985
  • Cyrano de Bergerac, 1985 (not the same as 1971 version)
    - TV drama 1985, dir. by Terry Hands, Michael A. Simpson
  • The Pianoplayers, 1986
  • Carmen:: An Opera in Four Acts / Georges Bizet, 1986 (adaptation of the libretto by Henri Heilhac and Ludovic Halévy)
  • Blooms of Dublin: A Musical Play Based On James Joyce's Ulysses, 1986 (radio play 1982, music by Burgess)
  • Homage to Qwert Yuiop: Selected Journalism 1978-1985, 1986
  • Little Wilson and Big God, 1986 (Confessions of Anthony Burgess)
  • A Clockwork Orange: A Play With Music, 1987 (play, adaptation of his own novel, music by Burgess)
  • Any Old Iron, 1988
  • They Wrote in English, 1988
  • The Devil's Mode and Other Stories, 1989
  • An Essay on Censorship, 1989
  • You've Had Your Time, 1990 (Confessions of Anthony Burgess)
  • A Clockwork Orange 2004, 1990 (play)
  • On Mozart: A Paean for Wolfgang, 1991
  • A Meeting with Valladolid, 1991 (radio play)
  • The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy, 1992
  • A Mouthful of Air: Language and Languages, Especially English, 1992
  • Chatsky, or the Importance of Being Stupid / Alexandr Griboyedov, 1993 (translator)
  • A Dead Man in Deptford, 1993 (biography of Christopher Marlowe)
  • Byrne: A Novel, 1995
  • One Man's Chorus: The Uncollected Writings, 1998 (ed. Ben Forkner)
  • Revolutionary Sonnets and Other Poems, 2002 (ed. Kevin Jackson)


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