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February 05, 2008

Anthony Burgess

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Ricpic points out a first-class David Guaspari essay about the British writer Anthony Burgess, who was best-known for "A Clockwork Orange," the novel that was the source for the famous Stanley Kubrick film. Burgess, who died in 1993, was quite a force in the reading-and-writing (and film) worlds back in the '70s and '80s -- Friedrich von Blowhard was a major fan.

About the Guaspari essay, Ricpic writes,

The article is an appreciation of the work of the novelist Anthony Burgess and particularly the four books he wrote about a failed poet, Enderby. But it's more than that. Guaspari takes on, for lack of a better word, the dilemma of the artist in the world. Obviously I found it well written and utterly intriguing or I wouldn't be recommending it.

Here's the website of the Anthony Burgess Foundation. Many thanks to Ricpic.



posted by Michael at February 5, 2008


Here are some passages from the article. I hope they pique your appetite for more.

Enderby wins our appalled sympathy by his struggle, by acting on a conviction that he must write poems and that, to do so, he must cut himself off from the ordinary blessings of life -- with no expectation of reward and no guarantee that his sacrifice will bear fruit.

What's at stake for Enderby was also at stake for John Anthony Burgess Wilson -- nothing less than the Socratic question, "How is one to live?" Burgess, too, was and made himself an outsider. When he had a religion it was, socially speaking, the wrong one. He became an expatriate in order to write, lovingly, a language that he rarely spoke. For Burgess, too, things were perhaps best when they were not too good (creation's true dynamo). He and Enderby, it seems, accepted the conclusions of their former religion even while rejecting its premises. We are exiles and pilgrims. We live outside the gates of Eden, but we are significant: the fate of a single soul is a drama of cosmic proportions.

Burgess responded to his dilemma with morally serious comedy. Our freedom, a fact and a puzzle, makes us human, but it does not make us happy. It is threatened from without and within, and subject to a kind of entropic decay, so that we must struggle merely to avoid losing ground. Enderby the visiting professor could only offer his students a confused apocalyptic warning. They will not "prevail against the big bastards of computerized organizations that are kindly letting you enjoy the illusion of freedom. The people who write poems, even bad ones, are not the people who are going to rule. Sooner or later you're all going to go to jail. You have to learn to be alone. All you'll have is language, the great conserver, and poetry, the great isolate shaper." But the students cannot possibly understand. They can regard this outburst only "with pity and wonder."

Posted by: ricpic on February 5, 2008 4:08 PM

And Edward Champion says that "Burgess's powers are still strong": "People have lost interest since his death, but it's a mistake overdue for revision."

Posted by: Dave Lull on February 5, 2008 5:48 PM

Akshay reviews Nothing Like the Sun here:

Posted by: Thursday on February 6, 2008 9:42 AM

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