Burgess, Anthony

Burgess, Anthony
orig. John Anthony Burgess Wilson

born Feb. 25, 1917, Manchester, Eng.
died Nov. 22, 1993, London

English novelist, critic, and composer.

His experiences in Southeast Asia produced the novel trilogy The Long Day Wanes (1956–59). A Clockwork Orange (1962; film, 1971), his most original work, is a satire on extreme political systems. His other novels, which combine mordant wit, moral seriousness, verbal dexterity, and the bizarre, include The Wanting Seed (1962), Inside Mr. Enderby (1963), and Earthly Powers (1980). In addition to his extensive literary criticism, biographies, and works on linguistics and music, he composed more than 65 musical works.

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▪ 1994

      (JOHN ANTHONY BURGESS WILSON), British novelist, critic, and man of letters (b. Feb. 25, 1917, Manchester, England—d. Nov. 22, 1993, London, England), worked in a number of disciplines—fiction, music, journalism, and criticism among them—and was considered one of his generation's most clever and original writers. He wrote more than 50 books and considered himself primarily a comic writer, but he was best known for his novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), which portrayed a bleak, violent future in which gangs of teenagers (speaking a language Burgess invented) commit acts of violence to rebel against the conformity of their society. The 1971 film version of the novel, directed by Stanley Kubrick, became controversial for its violence, which was more pronounced than that in the book and was said to have inspired similar violence in gangs of youths. It eventually was withdrawn from distribution. Burgess developed an interest in music at an early age, taught himself to play the piano, and, while still in school, wrote a cello concerto and a symphony. He received (1940) a degree in English from Manchester University, served (1940-46) in the army, and became a teacher before becoming (1954) an education officer in Malaya. While there he wrote his first novels, a trilogy with a Malayan setting. Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and given only a year to live in 1959, Burgess, having returned to England, began to write at an intense pace so that his wife would be provided for after his death. When the diagnosis turned out to be incorrect, he maintained that pace, writing at least one book a year. He left England for good in 1968, teaching in the U.S. until 1974 and then moving to Malta, Rome, and finally Monaco and Switzerland. Among his works—some written under the pseudonym Joseph Kell—were the comic Enderby series (1963-84); the Broadway musical Cyrano (1973), based on his translation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac; Earthly Powers (1980); The End of the World News (1983); a number of motion-picture and television screenplays; symphonies; and his last book, A Dead Man in Deptford (1993). Burgess was a fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature and a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres of France.

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▪ British author
also called  Joseph Kell , original name  John Anthony Burgess Wilson 
born Feb. 25, 1917, Manchester, Eng.
died Nov. 22, 1993, London

      English novelist, critic, and man of letters, whose fictional explorations of modern dilemmas combine wit, moral earnestness, and a note of the bizarre.

      Trained in English literature and phonetics, Burgess taught in the extramural department of Birmingham University (1946–50), worked for the Ministry of Education (1948–50), and was English master at Banbury Grammar School (1950–54). He then served as education officer in Malaya and Borneo (1954–59), where he wrote three novels with a Malayan setting.

      Back in England he became a full-time and prolific professional writer. Under the pseudonym Anthony Burgess he wrote the novels The Wanting Seed (1962), an antiutopian view of an overpopulated world, and Honey for the Bears (1963). As Joseph Kell he wrote One Hand Clapping (1961) and Inside Mr. Enderby (1963).

      A Clockwork Orange (1962; filmed 1971) made Burgess' reputation as a novelist of comic and mordant power. The novel is written in a teenage argot of Burgess' invention, combining elements from British and American slang, Russian, and other sources. It examines society's unsuccessful attempt to psychologically “rehabilitate” an incurably violent juvenile delinquent. Other novels include The Eve of Saint Venus (1964) and Enderby Outside (1968). The latter is part of a series of humorous novels centred around the lyric poet F.X. Enderby, whom many critics have seen as a stand-in for Burgess himself. His later works include Earthly Powers (1980), The End of the World News (1983), The Kingdom of the Wicked (1985), Any Old Iron (1989), and A Dead Man in Deptford (1993). In his novels Burgess combined linguistic ingenuity and witty erudition with picaresque plots, bizarre story premises, and sharp social satire. Although his vision of modern society is a pessimistic one, his fiction is generally comic.

      Burgess was the author of more than 50 books. In addition to novels and short stories, he was known for his works of literary criticism, including Here Comes Everybody: An Introduction to James Joyce for the Ordinary Reader (1965). He wrote television scripts, did translations for the stage, and wrote biographies of William Shakespeare, D.H. Lawrence, and Ernest Hemingway. Burgess also produced dozens of musical compositions, including choral works and orchestral pieces. He wrote a two-volume autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God: Being the First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess (1987) and You've Had Your Time: Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess (1990).

Additional Reading
Samuel Coale, Anthony Burgess (1981); Geoffrey Aggeler (ed.), Critical Essays on Anthony Burgess (1986); and John J. Stinson, Anthony Burgess Revisited (1991).

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Universalium. 2010.

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