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Burgess, Anthony

colonial wilson name novel

(British, 1917–93)

Burgess was born and brought up in Manchester, attended university there, and served in the medical corps during the war. A late-starter at fiction writing (nearly 40 when his first novel was published), he made up for it with relentless, prodigious industry—in one year alone writing five novels when he was wrongly diagnosed as having a brain tumour, in order to provide for his family's future.

He achieved fame with A Clockwork Orange (1962), made into a controversial film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. A scary peep into the future, narrated by teenage thug Alex in the lingo of the delinquent underworld, it tells how an authoritarian society brainwashes him into docile compliance, and asks pertinent questions about individual freedom versus anti-social behaviour. All Burgess's fiction combines playful inventiveness in language with a satiric sidelong view of institutions. Earthly Powers (1980) is Burgess at full throttle: a massive novel being the reminiscences of 80-year-old homosexual author Kenneth Toomey in which actual events and real people are woven into a sweeping narrative covering sixty years. After the war Burgess served in the colonial service in Malaya and Borneo. Out of this came his Malayan trilogy: Time for a Tiger (1956), The Enemy in the Blanket (1958), and Beds in the East (1959), which examine to comic, penetrating effect the clash of western and eastern cultures at the fag-end of colonial rule. He also wrote symphonies, a Broadway musical, many works of criticism, and an autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God (1987)—his actual name was Wilson, Burgess being his middle name.

Vladimir Nabokov, J. G. Farrell, Paul Theroux. See FILM ADAPTATIONS  TH

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