Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess

In his dreams, a flood of snakes and horse shit would cascade into the bedroom from behind the picture. He would wake up screaming, but his aunt would not take the picture away.”
-Andrew Biswell on Anthony Burgess

A couple of years ago I bought The Real Life of Anthony Burgess, a biography on the Manchunian novelist, at Manchester Reads the Sixties, an event at 2010's Manchester Literature Festival

I got around to reading it recently. It's a fine book. Everything you could want to know about the author of A Clockwork Orange- the man raised in Harpurhey, Manchester and went on to become one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century- it's in here, right down to his masturbatory habits. Serious. The parts I found most interesting were the details of his apparently random decision to take his wife on a sightseeing trip to Russia. This developed his knowledge of the Russian language, which- along with a knack for other tongues- set him in good stead for his travels.

His Russian was a main influence in his creation of the NadSat language. This was a speculative dialect he developed for use by the teenage tearaways in his most famous work, A Clockwork Orange- a book he grew to hate once he was thrust into the limelight after Stanley Kubrick's 1973 screen adaptation.

Dr Biswell's book is a comprehensive insight to the man's life, and the research that has gone into it is incredibly deep. A must-read for linguiphiles or Burgess fans.

Footnote: I got the book signed by the author a few weeks ago. Check it out.

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