Anthony Burgess

(1917-1993), British

Anthony Burgess was a ground-breaking English author who is best remembered for his novel, A Clockwork Orange. His work explored themes like religion, morality, government overreach, and overpopulation. Anthony Burgess was born in Harpurhey, in Manchester, England, on February 25th, 1917. His parents were Catholic and worked as shopkeepers. He grew up in a lower-middle-class household.

Life Facts

  • Anthony Burgess was born in Manchester, England on February 25th, 1917.
  • He taught at the Malay College
  • He published A Clockwork Orange in 1962. 
  • In 1968, Burgess’s first wife died from cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Burgess died from lung cancer on November 22nd, 1993.

Interesting Facts

  • His mother died during the 1918 flu pandemic, as did his sister, Muriel.
  • Burgess spent time as a Nursing Orderly in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
  • He worked as a professor at Princeton for a time. 
  • He was friends with Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22. 
  • Burgess remarried six months after his first wife’s death.

Famous Books by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange is Burgess’s best-known novel. It follows Alex, a teenage criminal, who is brainwashed into nonviolent behavior. It features Burgess’s famous Nadsat slang.  Earthly Powers tells the story of Kenneth Toomey’s life over the course of 82 chapters. It’s often funny, outrageous, and strange.  The Wanting Seed is a dystopian novel that was published in 1962. It addresses themes of overpopulation, religion, and the government.  Inside Mr. Enderby was the first of a set of four comic novels. The book uses science fiction and fantasy, as well as bringing reades into the future. There, they encounter Francis Xavier Enderby.  Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare’s Love Life is a fictional biography of William Shakespeare, published in 1964. It purports to detail the Bard’s affair with a black prostitute who inspired the Dark Lady sonnets.

Early Life

Burgess’s mother died during the 1918 flu pandemic, as did his sister, Muriel. After her passing, Burgess was primarily raised by his aunt, Ann. Throughout his childhood, Burgess described, he was a solitary child. He was despised, he believed, by his father for having survived when his mother and sister didn’t. He was also the victim of bullying. He attended several schools throughout his youth before being accepted into Xaverian College.  He later attended the Victora University of Manchester. He intended to study music but was turned down due to poor grades. He studied English literature instead and graduated with a BA in 1940. In 1942, two years later, he married Llewela Isherwood Jones, whom he’d met at the university. Around this period, he spent time as a Nursing Orderly in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was unpopular among the ranks and even pursued by the military police for desertion.  In a terrifying incident, some scholars believed inspired events in A Clockwork Orange. His wife was raped by American deserters during a blackout. As a result, she lost the child she was pregnant with at the time, and Burgess was denied leave to visit her. He left the army in 1946 and spent the next four years teaching at Mid-West School of Education and Bamber Bridge Emergency Teacher Training College. He also worked as a secondary school teacher at Banbury Grammar School. Also, during this period, he wrote for the local newspaper, the Banbury Guardian.

Literary Career

In the early 50s, he was stationed at Kuala Kangsar in Perak in Malaya, where he worked as a teacher and education officer. He taught at the Malay College. While there, he spent some time writing and published his first novels. They were Time for a Tiger, The Enemy in the Blanket, and Beds in the East. He moved on to work at the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin College in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. He wrote Devil of a State and was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given a year to live. He returned home in 1959 and spent time in a London hospital.  In 1961, the couplet took a sea voyage, and Burgess was inspired to write Honey for Bears. He described his autobiography that his exposure to the Russian language during this trip helped create Nadsat, the slang language used in A Clockwork Orange. He published the book in 1962. It would become an enduring classic often regarded as his best work. 

Later Life and Death

In 1968, Burgess’ wife died from cirrhosis of the liver, and he remarried six months later to Liana Macellari, an Italian translator. In the 1970s, Burgess lived in the United States and worked as a professor at Princeton and City College of New York. He became friends with Joseph Heller.  Burgess died from lung cancer on November 22nd, 1993. His ashes were inured at the Monaco cemetery. 

Influence from other Writers

Anthony Burgess was notably influenced by Franz Kafka, George Orwell, William Shakespeare, and Ernest Hemingway.

Literature by Anthony Burgess

Explore literature by Anthony Burgess below, created by the team at Book Analysis.