English novelist, critic, and composer. A prolific and versatile writer, Burgess wrote about 60 books as well as screenplays, television scripts, and reviews. His work includes A Clockwork Orange (1962) (made into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971), a despairing depiction of high technology and violence set in a future London terrorized by teenage gangs, and the panoramic Earthly Powers (1980).
Style Burgess's works often show an experimental approach to language – A Clockwork Orange is written in ‘nadsat’, the imaginary argot of the teenage narrator, and his fictional biography of Shakespeare, Nothing Like the Sun (1964), is written in a mock-Elizabethan dialect. His vision has been described as bleak and pessimistic, but his work is also comic and satiric, as in his novels featuring the poet Enderby.
Early life Burgess was born in Manchester, educated by Jesuits at Xaverian College, and, while there, he taught himself the piano and wrote a cello concerto and a symphony. He read English at Manchester University and then served in the army from 1940–46, mainly in the Education Corps. When demobilized after World War II, he lectured for Birmingham University extramural department, then for the Ministry of Education until 1950, when he became an English teacher at Banbury Grammar School.
Early works In 1954 he became a senior lecturer in English at the Teachers' Training College, Khata Baru, in what was then the British colony of Malaya (now Malaysia). There he found his true vocation. He wrote three novels from 1956–59 about British and other expatriates, and the Malayans on the eve of their independence, published together as The Malayan Trilogy in 1972. He worked for the Brunei Department of Education from 1958–59, but his time in Southeast Asia was abruptly ended when an inoperable brain tumour was diagnosed and he was told he had only a year to live. He wrote five novels during that year and, back in England, kept up a steady flow of at least one book a year and a good deal of journalism.
Later works From 1968 Burgess lived abroad, in Malta, Italy, Switzerland, and Monaco, and his work became even more ambitious. Earthly Powers, a vast survey of the 20th century narrated by a fictional world-famous novelist, was short-listed for the Booker Prize. Equally ambitious was The Kingdom of the Wicked (1985), a spectacular retelling of the biblical Acts of the Apostles.
Non-fiction Burgess wrote many works of literary criticism, particularly on James Joyce, as well as several on language and on music and composing. His memoirs, Little Wilson and Big God (1987) and You've Had Your Time (1990), are as exciting as his fiction and in many respects an extension of it.
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