John Anthony Burgess Wilson, 1917-1993
British novelist, playwright, essayist and composer

[Chinese Version]
Early Life
Anthony Burgess (John Anthony Burgess Wilson) was born to a Roman Catholic family in Manchester, England on February 25, 1917. His mother, Elizabeth Burgess Wilson, and his sister, Muriel died of influenza in the following year, and the loss of motherhood was deeply reflected in his life and works. Burgess described his father, Joseph Wilson, who remarried to a pub landlady, as "a mostly absent drunk who called himself a father . " He was brought up under the influence of a stepmother who reappeared as a grotesque figure in Inside Mr. Enderby (1963) . The other dominant influence in his life both at home and at school was the Roman Catholic Church, which was described in many of his novels. Burgess renounced Catholicism at about age sixteen, but the renunciation gave him little joy. In the early chapters of Tremor of Intent (1966), for example, he used his childhood memories of the Xaverian College, Manchester, to paint a delightful portrait of growing schoolboys' minds as they face the deadening impenetrability of Catholic doctrines.
School Years
  Burgess's most persistent youthful ambition was to become a composer. After a secondary education at Xaverian College in his home city, Burgess enrolled at the University of Manchester in 1936. A failed science background kept him out of the music department at Manchester University, so he studied English language and literature instead and had been fascinated by the close relation of words and music. Burgess also poured his energy into editing the university magazine, the Serpent, and into the dramatic society. Burgess's personal tutor Dr. L. C. Knights, author of Drama and Society in the Age of Johnson (1937), was one of the leading exponents of New Criticism. Through Knights, Burgess was influenced by his method, which enables one to criticize a novel by close analysis and explication of the text.
War Service
  After graduating in 1940, Burgess joined the British Army and was assigned to the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was then sent to join a small entertainment group as a pianist and arranger. Then in 1943, Burgess was transferred to the Army Education Corps in Gibraltar, Spain . Here he was a training college lecturer in speech and drama, teaching German, Russian, French and Spanish, and he helped instruct the troops in "The British Way and Purpose." His first novel A Vision of Battlements (written in 1949 and published in 1965 under the pseudonym Joseph Kell) concerns the life of a failed musician. Richards Ennis is the first of Burgess' antiheroes who is in the cruel process of learning about his failures, and not only in music either. The novel is significantly set in Gibraltar, in the postwar period when the soldiers are waiting around to be given something to do.
Malaya and Brunei Years: Early Teaching Career
  After discharging from the army in 1946, Burgess worked at a variety of jobs, serving as a piano player in a jazz band in London and as a grammar school instructor teaching various subjects including English literature in Banbury, Oxfordshire. In 1954, Burgess accepted a position in Malaya (now Malaysia ) as a teacher and education officer for the British Colonial Service and began his literary career "as a kind of hobby." Time for a Tiger (1956), The Enemy in the Blanket (1958) and Beds in the East (1959) are known as A Malayan Trilogy which base upon his fascinating experiences in Malaya . Following the adventures of Victor Crabbe, a young British schoolmaster living in Malaya, the books examine the demise of British rule and present a detailed portrait of the conflicts between the British colonials and the diverse indigenous populations (Tamils, Sikhs, Malays and Chinese).

As an education officer in Malaya and Brunei between 1954 and 1959, Burgess's prodigious writings include Devil of a State (a novel about Brunei published in 1961) and two memoirs Little Wilson and Big God (1987) and You've Had Your Time (1990). He also gave a talk on the "Rebellion in Brunei," broadcasted by BBC radio on December 14, 1962. Inspired by teaching experiences in Malaya and Brunei, Burgess found the conflict of races and tensions between the colonizing British and the independent-minded Malays, a "confluence of cultures," the subject matter of many of his novels.
"Brain Tumor" Incident
  In 1959, Burgess was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor and given less than a year to live. Insuring his wife's posthumous income after his death, Burgess returned to England and produced five novels during that period. He and his wife rented a flat in Sussex and he was able to complete five novels without great difficulty. Some twenty years later he had published his twenty-eighth novel, The Kingdom of the Wicked (1985), reportedly writing seven days a week for a good eight hours a day. Those "terminal novels" include The Doctor Is Sick (1960), drawing on his own near-tragic situation and also Inside Mr. Enderby (1963), The Worm and the Ring (1961), The Wanting Seed (1962), and One Hand Clapping (1961). For two of these novels he used the pseudonym Joseph Kell. Burgess launched himself as a professional novelist by accident, and his productivity of "terminal novels" during his "terminal year" astonished publishers and critics.
Marriage Life
  In 1942, Burgess married a Welsh girl, Llewela Isherwood Jones (1920-1968), the eldest daughter of a high school principal. His first wife Lynne, an abusive and paranoid alcoholic, was depicted as the source of Burgess's "great joy and unimaginable pain." Their marriage lasted until her death in 1968 after many years of severe illness. Within a few months of his first wife's death, Burgess remarried Italian contessa Liliana Macellari and caused quite a scandal. With their son, Andrea, the Burgesses later settled in Monaco, taking occasional trips to America on the lecture circuit.
Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and the Omitted Twenty-First Chapter
  When A Clockwork Orange was published in 1962, it was considered sheer science fiction. But Burgess intended this novella to be a study on free will and psychological behaviorism. A Clockwork Orange was later regarded as a successor to earlier great novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, We, and Anthem . Burgess invented a dialect out of English and American slang, Russian, gypsy argot, and Jacobean prose in A Clockwork Orange . The book, narrated by Alex, contains many words in a slang dialect called nadsat . In Burgess's later introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked," he wrote that the title of the novel came from an old Cockney expression from East London, "as queer as a clockwork orange"Xindicating that one "has the appearnce of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil."

A Clockwork Orange is divided into three parts that each containing seven chapters. Twenty-one is a symbolic number as it is the age that which a child earns his rights at the time. Stanley Kubrick 's 1971 film adaptation A Clockwork Orange used an American version of the script, which left out the twenty-first chapter. The book was partly inspired by a violent event that Burgess's first wife Lynn was assaulted by four U.S. GI deserters on the street in London, suffering a miscarriage and lifelong dysmenorrhea. According to Burgess, writing the novel was both a catharsis and an "act of charity" toward senseless male violence against defenseless women. The narrator Alex, a fifteen-year-old attacker, assaults brutally on the writer and his wife. In Kubrick 's screenplay, the protagonist Alex's ultimate moral and psychological growth is replaced by a celebration of violence. While some critics argue that Alex's violence lessens or counterbalances the extreme actions of the State, others consider the final chapter completes the "bildungsroman" framework for a novel.
Earthly Powers and Other Works
  Between 1962 and the end of 1980, Burgess produced fifteen novels. Some of these, such as The Eve of St. Venus (1964), The Clockwork Testament (1974), Beard's Roman Women (1976), and ABBA ABBA (1977), are rather slight books. The most significant are Nothing Like the Sun (1964), Tremor of Intent (1966), Enderby Outside ( 1968 ), M/F (1971), Napoleon Symphony (1974), and Earthly Powers (1980). The Earthly Powers is considered by many critics Burgess's finest novel, but in some ways it is also his most controversial. In this novel, Burgess took the controversial narrator Kenneth Marchal Toomey as an eminent novelist, an unsympathetic homosexual and a character reportedly modeled on W. Somerset Maugham. This is also the story of Carlo Campanati, an Italian priest linked with Toomey through family ties. Carlo Campanati, is modeled on the late Pope John XXIII, whom Burgess neither revered nor admired. He is a Faustian figure who made a bargain with the devil in return for the earthly powers of the papacy.
Last Years
  During his last years, Burgess and his wife settled in Monte Carlo and in Lugano, Switzerland . He loved to gamble and visited the casinos nightly. He knew the royal family well and frequently strolled with Princess Grace. Wherever he was living, Burgess continued to work systematically from 10 a .m. to 5 p.m., drinking strong tea, smoking small cigars, and producing a thousand words a day, using a word processor for his journalism and a typewriter for fiction. Even when his health began to fail and he had to return to England, he continued writing. Another novel, A Dead Man in Deptford, was completed and published in 1993, the year he died of cancer in London .


"Anthony Burgess," in Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, Volume 8: Contemporary Writers, 1960 to the Present. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Gale Research, 1992, pp. 3-35.

"Anthony Burgess," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 14: British Novelists Since 1960. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Jay L. Halio, University of Delaware . The Gale Group, 1982, pp. 159-187.

"Anthony Burgess," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 194: British Novelists Since 1960, Second Series. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Merritt Moseley, University of North Carolina at Asheville . The Gale Group, 1998, pp. 49-72.

"Anthony Burgess," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 261: British Fantasy and Science-Fiction Writers Since 1960. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Darren Harris-Fain, Shawnee State University . The Gale Group, 2002, pp. 115-129.

"John (Anthony) Burgess Wilson," in Contemporary Authors. (A profile of the author's life and works)

"John (Anthony) Burgess Wilson," in Contemporary Literary Criticism-Select. (A brief review of the author's life, works, and critical reception)