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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?'
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 The Worm and the Ring, which drew on his experiences as a grammar school teacher, was withdrawn and pulped soon after its appearance in 1961 as the result of a libel action.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. 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. In 1962 his most famous science fiction fable, A Clockwork Orange appeared, which made him famous as a satirical novelist, and which was filmed by Stanley Kubrick in the 1970s. The novel 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). He 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.