Yesterday I posted a review of Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed. Let’s learn a little more about this fascinating man.
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993, birth name John Burgess Wilson) was an English literature teacher throughout the 1940s, and worked for the British Colonial Service in the 1950’s, travelling to Malaysia and Brunei. Although gainfully employed during his travels, he often wrote short novels that were openly quite critical of the regimes he was living under. Some books never saw publication due to libel suits.
This multitalented author, linguist, critic, satirist and musician, is considered one of Britain’s greatest contemporary writers.
In the United States, we mostly know Anthony Burgess because of the movie A Clockwork Orange. A cult classic, if you’ve seen the movie, I highly recommend the book. It’s much easier to swallow than the movie, and is an amazing read. Famous for his biting satire of contemporary society, Burgess was always more proud of his works of philosophical literature, literary criticism, and his music. Talented in linguistics as well, Burgess was fluent in French and German at a young age, and during his time overseas he taught himself Malay, and Farsi. You can see his love for languages while experiences the strange slang in A Clockwork Orange.
Reading a handful of articles about Burgess, I wish that I had been a literature major in college, so I’d have the foundational education to appreciate more of his works. He deserves to be known for more than just the shock cult film A Clockwork Orange. He always viewed that novel as one of his weakest works.
Later in his life he lived all over Europe and spent a number of years in the United States, teaching creative writing at Columbia University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and University of Iowa. Although lucrative, his extensive travels and obvious avoidance of his home country may have been to avoid paying taxes.
Have you read A Clockwork Orange or any other Anthony Burgess novels? What did you think, and would you read him again? If you had friends or family who studied creative writing, literature or English at the universities mentioned above during the 1970’s, ask them if they remember their creative writing professor!