Go back to the Burgess page for more texts and other resources.

41 Facts on Anthony Burgess

An interesting collection of background information about Burgess.

[b]41 facts about Anthony Burgess[/b]

1) Although best known for his novel {A Clockwork Orange} that later became the movie of the same name by Stanley Kubrick, Burgess was one of the most prolific writers of the last century. His works, more than 50 in number, span from novels to plays to translations, children's books, general non-fiction, essay collections and poetry-prose to music books and biographies.

2) Burgess is considered, among others, to be a noted expert on Joyce, Marlowe and Shakespeare and has written books about all three of them. His Joyce book, {ReJoyce }is considered by many scholars to be the best work available on the market providing an introduction and in-depth understanding of Joyce, for students and lay-people alike. {A Dead Man in Deptford }was one of his last works and is a historical novel about the life of Christopher Marlowe. {Nothing Like the Sun }is a novel about Shakespeare. Throughout many of his others works, all three authors feature was characters or aspects of their work have been incorporated into Burgess' own works. Thus, Burgess' works are a must-read for any student of Marlowe, Shakespeare or Joyce.

3) Burgess held a BA in English (upper second honours division) from Manchester University. His finishing thesis was on Marlowe. He also held a PhD from the same institution. A modest and unassuming man in real life, he never used the PhD behind his name nor called himself Dr. Burgess

4) Burgess taught creative writing at Princeton University and, together with Joseph Heller, the author of Catch 22, at City College New York.

5) During the Spanish Civil War, Burgess was imprisoned for calling Franco a filthy swine.

6) Despite his public statements to the contrary, Burgess was a believing Catholic. His was married twice and did not believe in divorce but considered marriage to be a life-long commitment. His first wife, Llwela or Lynne, was a nature-loving Welsh woman. After her death, he married Liana, an Italian countess and remained married to her until his death.

7) Burgess did not like the movie {Clockwork Orange }and walked out of its premiere because he considered it too violent.

8) Burgess was also a noted literary critic and journalist. He always met his deadline and often reviewed books the day they arrived in the mail.

9) Burgess's real name was John Wilson. Anthony was his confirmation name, Burgess was the maiden name of his mother. This was how he came to choose Anthony Burgess as his writer's name. For a while, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Joseph Kell. The literary critic Burgess once caused quite a stir when he reviewed a book by Joseph Kell.

10) Burgess's childhood was marred by trauma and tragedy. He lost both, his mother and sister, in infancy and grew up with an unloving stepmother. He was beaten in school and his first sexual experience was one of child abuse when he was seduced by an older woman.

11) Burgess overcame his traumas by turning to music and writing as an escape. Aside from being one of the most outstanding writers of the 20th century, Burgess is currently being hailed as an important new music discovery. He has written extensive pieces of music, from symphonies to string pieces, for such notables as Menuhin and Larry Adler. His music has been compared to Elgar and a project is currently underway at Brown University, Rhode Island, to categorize and perform his music. A well-known music lecturer at Brown is currently preparing a book on Burgess the composer and he has received an entry into Grove. The music of Burgess that has already been performed has been received very favourably by critics and audiences alike.

12) Burgess came to writing late in life. Before then, he worked as a teacher of English. Among his students were the Sultan of Brunei and Nathaniel Wouk, the son of Herman. He often daydreamt of returning to teaching, which he thoroughly enjoyed. It is why his books often have a teaching quality and why he is able to make even the most complex literary and linguistic matters understood to the layman.

13) Burgess was able to make himself understood in some 10 languages. Aside from English, he knew Malay, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Welsh, Japanese, some Hebrew, Chinese, Swedish and several others.

14) Burgess is considered to be an important biographer and linguist, aside from being an outstanding composer, literary critic, journalist and writer. He was considered a veritable genius.

15) In his lifetime Burgess has, outside Great Britain, lived in Spain, Malta, Gibraltar, Monaco, France, Switzerland, Italy, the United States, Malaysia. He has also extensively travelled all over the world.

16) Burgess turned to writing after he was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumour at age 40 and given only one year to live. He started writing to leave funds for his prospective widow, Lynne, but ended up surviving her.

17) The second time Burgess was given one year to live, he once again courageously fought the diagnosis, but this time he sadly lost. On November 22nd, 1993, he died of lung cancer in London, aged 76. He would have turned 77 on February 25th the following year.

18) The message Burgess wanted to give with his most famous book, {A Clockwork Orange}, is two-fold. One was about the importance of choice. Burgess believed that man must be able to choose between good and evil freely, especially because the imposition by the government of what is considered 'good' could be abused to force men into performing evil acts. The second message he sought to convey was about the importance of forgiveness and allowing others a fresh start rather than keep dragging up the past before people who have well and truly changed.

19) Burgess used the real-life rape of his own wife, Lynne, as a model for the rape scene in {A Clockwork Orange}.

20) Following her rape, Lynne took to alcohol in a big way and Burgess was forced to helplessly watch her decline until she succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver. His first wife remained a central character in his later works.

21) In his private life, Burgess was described by friends and associates as one of the kindest people they knew. He was always willing to help people in their careers or personal lives, very rarely turned down an interview request, read manuscripts of friends and acquaintances and was generous to a fault. He was a bad businessman and left all financial arrangements to his second wife Liana. He never knew how much money he had in the bank and often had not a dime in his pocket.

22) Burgess was a life-long smoker, a habit that finally led to his demise.

23) Burgess made up an entirely new language in {A Clockwork Orange} using the Slavic languages as a model. For the movie {Quest for Fire} he reconstructed the languages spoken by our ancestors.

24) Burgess would often write more than one book at a time and then compose music in the evenings to relax. He did not frequent parties or exploit his own fame. He was driven by a need to put as many words down on paper as his limited lifetime would allow and did not believe in wasting time.

25) One of his favourite movies was Fritz Lang's {Metropolis}, a story that deals with the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy and the need for mutual understanding between the classes.

26) Burgess was a good cook. His speciality was curry of all shapes and forms, but he made a ghastly Lancashire Hot Pot although he was from Lancashire.

27) During his final year, Burgess did not sleep a lot but raced against time to get the books written that he still wanted to write. Among the books he completed, which were so important to him, are {A mouthful of Air}, {A Dead Man in Deptford }about Christopher Marlowe and {Byrne}, a verse novel that remained partially completed, was written in code and dedicated to four unnamed and significant people in his life. With {Byrne}, Burgess fulfilled his dream of writing a work matching Nabokov's {Pale Fire}, which he admired, while also granting a final and epic farewell poem to his alter-ego fictional hero, the poet Enderby. Some of Enderby's poetry has been incorporated into the text of {Byrne}. As a Joyce scholar, he also incorporated many aspects of Joyce into his final novel. Burgess left notes and outlines of books and projects he still wanted to undertake at the time of his death and it is safe to speculate that he completed the books in order of personal importance.

28) Burgess wrote a two part autobiography, Part 1 titled {Little Wilson and Big God}, Part 2 titled {You've Had Your Time}. This was one of his projects of later life and undertaken in the hope of dissuading biographers of dissecting his persona after his death. A sensitive man in private life, he was very hurt when he received unkind critics accusing him of 'whining' when writing about the more painful parts of his life. This reaction was partially responsible for turning him into a recluse in his final years.

29) Burgess believed that any hardship or hurt could be overcome by dedicating oneself to the task of learning. He considered life to be one great adventure of learning and his inquisitive mind never stood still. Literary scholars describe him as a genius of immense intellect who knew something significant about almost every subject. In his final years, Burgess raced against time to learn Japanese and with his bad eyesight struggled to make out Japanese writing. He believed in learning by doing and delighted in meeting visiting Japanese in hotels to try his language skills on them.

30) Joyce, Nabokov and Burgess are considered to be one of the most significant trio of Anglophone literature, in many ways building on each other. Burgess final novel, the verse novel {Byrne}, contains significant elements of Joyce and Nabokov and can be seen as building a bridge between the Irish and American writer by adding the missing link of a British writer.

31) Burgess' Goddaughter was Alexandra Swenson, the daughter of his editor at W.W. Norton, Eric Swenson.

32) During the second World War, Burgess worked in an insane asylum and also was made to witness an autopsy.

33) Although he excelled as a writer, Burgess' fondest dream was recognition as a composer, which came to him posthumously when he was granted an entry in the Grove directory of musicians as a composer.

34) Burgess died on November 22nd, 1993 and gave his final interview, by fax, on November 4th to the Spanish publication {El Mundo}.

35) Burgess wrote the screenplay for Franco Zefirelli's acclaimed television series "{Jesus of Nazareth}", starring the British actor Robert Powell as Jesus.

36) {Soylent Green}, the movie starring Charlton Heston, was based on a story by Burgess. It was a futuristic movie about cannibalism as a solution to end the hunger problem.

37) Burgess frequently said things publicly with the sole aim to shock. He was once awarded the male chauvinist pig of the year award by a feminist press.

38) An admirer of classical poetry, Burgess's love for the craft shines through many of his novels. His was a gifted poet himself, won the Governor's Poetry Award in his youth and invented the character of Enderby, a poet with his own series of Burgess novels, to showcase his work.

39) Despite his gruff and opinionated image, in real life Burgess was generous and loyal to a fault, even to those undeserving. Friends describe him as unassuming, modest and courageous.

40) Despite living outside of the United Kingdom for much of his life, Burgess entertained a hate-love for his country and remained emotionally attached to his home-town of Manchester. He wanted to be buried there but this was not to be. There is a memorial stone for him on the cemetery of Monte Carlo, bearing the words ABBA ABBA (the title of a Burgess novel).

41) For students of Joyce, Burgess compiled a list of suggestions for prospective thesis and dissertation titles.

Authors | Quotes | Digests | Submit | Interact | Store

Copyright © Classics Network. Contact Us