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Anthony Burgess at 100

By / February 25, 2017 / no comments

Today, Anthony Burgess would have turned 100.

A prolific writer, and also a composer, he was best known for his mainstream work, But his fiction often incorporated elements of the fantastic, and some were overtly science fiction.

The earliest and most famous of these was A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange, set in a dystopian near-future in which disaffected youth communicate in a curious criminal argot and spend their time committing mayhem. When the leader of one gang is captured by the authorities he is subjected to a bizarre brainwashing procedure which eliminates his violent tendencies but at the same time destroys his humanity. The book was filmed by Stanley Kubrick, who then suppressed it for many years following a series of copycat crimes. It is notable that Burgess’s own proposed script for the film was actually more violent than the one Kubrick made.

The Wanting Seed (Norton Paperback Fiction)Around the same time, he produced another science fiction novel, The Wanting Seed, a satirical fable on overpopulation, in which homosexuality is promoted and wars are designed as an efficient way to control the population.

1985Late in his career he returned to science fiction again with 1985, an updating of George Orwell’s 1984 in which the target of the satire is unions and immigrants. and in The End of the World News passengers aboard a spaceship escaping the destruction of the Earth are entertained by a fictional life of Sigmund Freud and a Broadway musical about Leon Trotsky.

The End of the World News: An EntertainmentWith the wonderful exception of A Clockwork Orange, Burgess was never a convinced or a convincing writer of science fiction. But A Clockwork Orange al0ne is enough to mark him out as one of the more significant sf writers of the second half of the twentieth century.


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