Anthony Burgess Birth Anniversary: Must read books and quotes by the author of A Clockwork Orange
Author of the dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange, John Anthony Burgess Wilson was born on February 25, 1917. An English writer and composer of repute, he belonged to a lower-middle-class background and is said to have had a largely solitary childhood.
The author initially wanted to study music, after he heard French composer Claude Debussy. He was, however, denied admission at the music department of Victoria University of Manchester because of poor grades in physics and ended up studying language and literature.
He met Llewela Lynne Isherwood at the university and the two married in January 1942.
Burgess had a brief career in the military, where he was extremely unpopular and during this time his pregnant wife Lynne was raped and assaulted by four people and she lost their child. The rape and assault would find its way into Burgess’ most famous work A Clockwork Orange.
The first of the author’s works were written and published while he was working in the then Federation of Malaya, which soon came to be known as The Malayan Trilogy.
He would go on to write 34 novels in his illustrious career, including a few under the pseudonym Joseph Kell, before his death on 22 November 1993 from lung cancer.
A Clockwork Orange: Published in 1962, the book is set in a near-future society that has a subculture where the youth are extremely violent. The novella sees the teen protagonist Alex narrate his macabre exploits and experiences with state authorities who are trying to reform him.
Divided into three parts, the novel traces the protagonist’s life from his younger days of crime to his prison sentence and aversion therapy and finally him realising the error of his ways.
The novel received cult status after Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 Oscar-nominated film of the same name, featuring Malcolm McDowell in the lead role.
The Malayan Trilogy: A set of three books by Burgess, they are a detailed fictional exploration of the effects of the Malayan Emergency and of Britain’s final withdrawal from its Southeast Asian territories. The three volumes are - Time for a Tiger (1956), The Enemy in the Blanket (1958) and Beds in the East (1959).
The series follows the journey of history teacher Victor Crabbe, his professional difficulties, marital problems and attempts at performing his duties in war against insurgents.
Abba Abba: The 22nd novel by Burgess was published in 1977 and consists of two parts - the first being the last months in the life of poet John Keats and his encounters with the Roman poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli and the second presents English translation of a sequence of sonnets by Belli. The first part also sees him meeting Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, in the Pincio, and a Roman man of letters named Giovanni Gulielmi.
Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare’s Love Life: The 1964 novel retells the story of Shakespeare’s life with a mix of fact and fiction.
The book shows the bard having an affair with a prostitute, Fatimah, who is the inspiration behind the Dark Lady in the Sonnets. The title of the novel is based on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.”
The author, known for books like Man of Nazreth (a fictionalised account of the story of Jesus from birth to death), The End of the World News: An Entertainment, has a number of memorable quotes attributed to him.
- Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.
- Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist.
- The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate. Life is sustained by the grinding opposition of moral entities.
- To be left alone is the most precious thing one can ask of the modern world.
- It’s funny how the colours of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.