Anthony Burgess, pseudonym of John Anthony Burgess Wilson Biography
(1917–93), pseudonym of John Anthony Burgess Wilson, Ulysses, Blooms of Dublin, Time for a Tiger
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bridgnorth Shropshire to Anthony Burgess [John Anthony Burgess Wilson Burgess] Biography
British novelist, composer, and critic, born in Manchester into a Catholic family, educated at the University of Manchester. An accomplished musician, Burgess maintained his interest in music throughout his varied career, composing orchestral works as well as those in more popular forms, including a musical version of Joyce's Ulysses (Blooms of Dublin, performed in 1982). After serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Second World War, he was a teacher for some years. During 1954–60 he served in the Colonial Service as an education officer in Malaya and Borneo, an experience in the Far East which formed the background for his first three published novels, Time for a Tiger (1956), The Enemy in the Blanket (1958), and Beds in the East (1959), published together as The Malayan Trilogy (1964). After a mistaken medical diagnosis, giving him only one year to live, he wrote five novels in quick succession, including The Right to an Answer (1960), The Doctor is Sick (1960), The Worm and the Ring (1961), and Devil of a State (1961), in order to provide an estate for his wife. His best-known novel, A Clockwork Orange (1962; filmed by Stanley Kubrick, 1971), demonstrated his linguistic virtuosity in its dystopian vision of an authoritarian near-future Britain. It was followed by many others, displaying a variety of different fictional modes, including The Wanting Seed (1962), a work of science fiction; Honey for the Bears (1963), a satire about the Cold War; Nothing like the Sun (1964), a speculation on the identity of Shakespeare's Dark Lady; Tremor of Intent (1966), an elaborate thriller; MF (1971), about a young man's pilgrimage to the shrine of a celebrated poet; The Napoleon Symphony (1974), about Beethoven; and Abba Abba (1977), about the last days of John Keats. Later novels include Earthly Powers (1980), The Kingdom of the Wicked (1985), dealing with the early years of Christianity, and Any Old Iron (1989), about a twentieth-century quest for King Arthur's sword Excalibur. Burgess's last novel, A Dead Man in Deptford (1993), a rich evocation of Elizabethan London centring on the life and times of Christopher Marlowe, was considered by some critics to be his best. Among his most popular works are his comic novels tracing the adventures of the irascible middle-aged poet Mr Enderby, including Inside Mr Enderby (1963), Enderby Outside (1968), The Clockwork Testament (1974), and Enderby's Dark Lady (1984), which show the influence of James Joyce and are considered by his peer, Gore Vidal, to be even finer than the comedies of Waugh. His critical works include studies of Shakespeare (1970), Joyce (Here Comes Everybody, 1965; Joysprick, 1973), D. H. Lawrence (1985), and Mozart and the Wolf Gang (1991), an irreverent portrait of Mozart. He also published collections of essays, including Urgent Copy (1968), which contains writings on Waugh, Shaw, Joyce, Beckett, and Greene; Homage to QWERTYUIOP (1986), a collection of his reviews; Ninety-Nine Novels (1984), a study of post-war fiction in Britain; an autobiography published in two parts as Little Wilson and Big God (1987) and You've Had Your Time (1990); an authoritative, idiosyncratic treatment of the nature of language, A Mouthful of Air (1992); and the posthumously published novel in verse, Byrne (1995). A prodigious intellect and polymath, with a cosmopolitan grasp of culture, Burgess contributed much to the world of letters.