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Anthony Burgess

John Anthony Burgess Wilson (February 25, 1917November 25, 1993), better known by the pen name Anthony Burgess, was a British writer.

Burgess was born in Manchester, England and was left motherless at two years old by the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. Instead he was raised by his aunt and later his stepmother. Burgess went on to study English at Xaverian College and then at Manchester University. In 1940, he joined the military and worked in the British Army Education Corps during the Second World War.

He continued to work as an education officer in Brunei and Malaysia after the war. In 1959, he collapsed in a classroom in Malaysia. He was diagnosed as having an inoperable brain tumour, with the likelihood of only surviving a short time. He retired from teaching and became a full-time writer, eventually outliving the prognosis by several decades.

In a prolific writing career he published over 50 books covering a wide range of subject matter, including mainstream fiction such as the Enderby trilogy (about a reclusive poet), dystopian science fiction such as The Wanting Seed, and a guide to James Joyce, Here Comes Everybody.

His most famous work (or notorious, after Stanley Kubrick made a controversial film adaptation) was the novel A Clockwork Orange (1962); inspired initially by an incident during World War II in which he and his wife had been assaulted, the book was an examination of free will and morality. The young anti-hero of the book, Alex, captured after a career of violence and mayhem, is given aversion conditioning to stop his violence: making him defenceless against other people, and unable to enjoy the music that, besides violence, had been his other only pleasure in life. The film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick caused some controversy.

He had a considerable interest in music, having composed several symphonies, and even modelling the structure of one of his novels, The Napoleon Symphony (1974) upon Beethoven's Eroica symphony.

His fluency in language (he could speak Malay, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Welsh in addition to his native English, as well as some Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish and Persian) was reflected in the invented teen slang of A Clockwork Orange (called Nadsat) and in the film Quest for Fire (1981); for this film, Burgess invented an entire prehistoric language for the characters to speak.

Burgess was a lifelong heavy smoker, eventually dying of lung cancer in 1993.


Selected works



  • Language Made Plain (1964)
  • (1965) also published as Re Joyce
  • The Novel Now (1967)
  • Urgent Copy (1968)
  • (1973)
  • This Man and Music (1982)
  • (1984)
  • Homage to QWERT YUIOP (1986)
  • Little Wilson and Big God (Autobiography, Part 1) (1986)
  • You've Had Your Time (Autobiography, Part 2) (1990)
  • A Mouthful of Air (1992)
  • One Man's Chorus (1998)

External links


Last updated: 11-06-2004 12:20:40