A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

A Vision of Battlements

 

A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – Personal copy

I have over the years I have been blogging talked about my love of Anthony Burgess for me he was one if not the best English writer of the later 20th century. I did a post of all the books I got over a year ago since then this came out as the Manchester University Press has been bringing out some of his out of print novels. This was the first in that collection the Irwell collection it has a lengthy intro by Burgess biographer Andrew Biswell who is also director of the International  Anthony Burgess Foundation. There is also the previous intros from the earlier books the only piece that is missing is the illustrations that were in the first edition a series of cartoon depictions of the story.

Ennis, sergeant Richard Ennis, A.V.C.C , lay in his hammock on the sergeants’ troop deck, shaping his miond, behind his closed eyes, against the creacks and groans of the heaving ship, a sonata for Violoncello and piano. He listened to the sinuous tune of the first movemnet with its percussive accompaniment, every note clear. It was strange to think that this, which had never been heard except in his imagination, never been commited to paper, should be more real than the pounding sea, than the war which might now suddenly come to particular life in a U-Boat attack, more real than himself, than his wife. It was a pattern that time could not touch, it was stronger than love.

Like Burgess Ennis is a composer Burgess often felt himself more a musician that a writer.

A vision of Battlements is partly based on Burgess own experience at the end of the second world war and the time just after the war. He was like the hero well anti Hero of this book Richard Ennis based on that small British island of Gibraltar. Like Burgess Ennis has a job teacher troops about The British way and purpose which was a collection of essays the war office had brought together to illustrate the British way to the everyday squady. Ennis is a musician a heart that loves music and poetry and really has ended up there by the fact of being drafted into the Army. He teaches the students in his own way. But he is viewed as a left winger when he gives his talks. He also has a problem with Authority he frequently clashes with his commanding officer. Major Muir a man sidetracked to the position he is in and one that has invented his own history that finds Ennis a bright younger man a threat and someone to worry about.  This is the everyday life of the Gibraltar post the argument of the men and the way they lived the frequent drunkenness of the men. Ennis is allowed to go into Spain here he falls in love with the poetry of Lorca and decides to translate him and he gets into trouble with the Christain brother who views these poems as godless. Ennis then also has relations with a local widow.

Major Muir was a regular W.O 1 with a first class ceritficate of Education. Wounded early in the war, he had been commissioned as a lieutenant in the army Educational Corps, then transferred, with promotion, to this newer organisation. He had delusions of grandeur and had invented fantasies about himself – the many books he had written, the many universities he had attended.He spoke often ungrammatically, with a homemade accent in which Cockney diphthongs stuckout stiffly, like bristles. His ignorance was a wonder

.Muir and ennnis don’t get one it is rather like the dads army pair of Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson

Now this book was actually the first book he wrote. He finished it in 1953 and put it to one side when he had published a few books in 1961 he gave it to one publisher they passed on it and in 1964 he gave it to the publisher that published the book. The book came from a series of blue notebooks Burgess kept whilst he was posted to Gibraltar doing much the same things as his hero Ennis was doing there is also a nod to Burgess great writing Hero Joyce he used the Aeneid as a loose frame to the book like Joyce had used odyssey in Ulysses. So certain names echo ones in the Aeneid Iabrus is Barasi and Turnus becomes Turner a character that is a complete opposite to Ennis. This book has a sprinkling of the comic the sort of view of army life that only those that have lived in the barracks can see and write about. Ennis was written about the same time as Amis wrote Lucky Jim and they are similar in a number of ways both are loved in a way by those they teach and mistrusted by those around them and also have trouble with the authoritarian figures in the world. This book has been out of print for forty year which is a shame as it is an interesting slice of world war two history not heroic but that everyday side of the army when you are in a place that isn’t near the front line but still needs to be manned. Burgess referred to this as wasted time and a huge chunk of his life. I will be back sometime soon with another Burgess as I still have a lot to cover for this blog.

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Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

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Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

English fiction / Italian poetry

Source – personnel copy

I said earlier in the year I intend to try to review a Burgess novel or work as this year saw the 100th anniversary of his birth, but as ever I found other things to read so a few months later I return to a second book. This time it is a historical novel, which Burgess wrote a number of in his lifetime and like some of his other historical novels he uses historical fact to construct a novel from and the actual fact is that the English Poet John Keats lived in Rome at the same time as the Italian poet Guiseppe Gioachino Belli.

Giovanni Guliemi, doctor of letters of the university of Bologna, had a small private income derived from the rents of the land in Lazio  left him by his father, who was untimely dead of Naples cholera, some british gold invested with the banker Torlonia, and what he got from the tenants of the first and second floors of the large house facing the Basilica of Santa Cecila in the Piazza named for her in the Tratevere district og Rome. The third, top , floor was enough for his mother and himself.

Another fatherless man also the connection between Keat and Belli whose poem he translated into English

 

So what Burgess imagined is that these two great poets actually meet in Rome. Belli was well-known for writing his poetry in a rough Italian dialect. We find Keats a man who is in his end days he is dying at a house near the Spanish steps where he can hear the music of a nearby fountain. The two meet as Keats gets hold of a translation of one of Bellis earlier poems a poem about manhood. We see the two men try to converse as best they can as neither speaks the other’s language as they connect via French. The second part of the book is a brief description of how JJ wilsom the translator of the Belli works in the second half of the book. explains how a Salford Schoolboy discovered Belli and decide to translate his works as he studied Italian as well as English as  a student a later discovery of his complete works in Italy.

The creation of the world

One day the bakers god and son set to

and baked, to show their pasta-maker’s skill,

This loaf the world, though the idd imbecile

Swears it’s a melon, and the thing just grew,

They made a sun, a moon, a green and blue

Atlas, chucked stars like money from a till,

Set birds high, beasts low, fishes lower still.

Planted their plants, they yawned: Aye that’ll do

First verse of a Belli poem translated by Burgess himself from Italian

This is a short book the first part is a mere sixty pages of Keats in Rome a city which Burgess himself had a flat for many years , so we get a real feel of the city and also of the character like Elton,  Severn  and Bonaparte’s daughter all were part of Keats life at the time(I googled Isaac Marmaduke Elton as that named seems a little surreal he was a real character and friend of Keats.  We have the meeting of the two great men may be like a brother relationship between Keats and Belli as Abba means father, they also both lost the fathers very young as well. They had a lot in common as poets. Belli is relatively unknown and was a poet that Burgess championed with his translation of his works into English. This shows what Burgess did well in other books like a dead man in Deptford and this is to use a piece of history here Keat in Rome and the fact that something else occurred that Belli was there at the same time. He did the same with Marlowe in the dead man in Deptford making him into a spy and much more than he was. That is the brilliant touch Burgess had to just imagine the scenario and build his book around it.

 

Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess #Burgess100

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Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – personnel copy

Well today sees the 100th anniversary of the nirth of Anthony Burgess. You may ask why  me the translated fiction fan likes Burgess so much. Well like many young men of my generation his Clockwork Orange was part of those books us boys read back in the day, alongside brave new world, on the road , naked lunch , the naked and dead etc well I did read clockwork orange .But I feel Burgess really didn’t hit me to I read Dead man in Deptford around the time it came out in 93 I was really grabbed by him and read everything I could get my hands on at the time which was maybe half his books . But as this year loomed I had tried to get back and read more by Burgess I decided to buy all the books I haven’t got so far I have all his novels bar three early books one of those is changing hands for 300 pound , m/f ,man of Nazareth and beard roman woman. that said I have 27 novels by him to start reading as with Dead man in Deptford which has a spy twist in it I decide to read Burgess only outright spy novel.

“This damnable sex, boys – ah you do well to writhe in your beds at very mention of the word. All the evil of our modern times  springs from unholy lust, the act of the dog and the bitch on the bouncing bed , limbs going like traction engines , the divine gift of articulate speech diminished to squeals and groans and panting .It’s terrible, an abomination before god and His Holy Mother

The two lads are taught this at school , how can Hiller ever be like Bond !!

He wrote this as he found the spy novels of the time lack a sense of humour in them , so he decide to redress the balance with this book. The hero of his book is Dennis Hiller a spy sent to try to bring back a scientist that has defected. Roper the man who has defected is an old school pal . The two like Burgess himself grew up North and in a catholic school this is where the pair met . But also left Hiller scared so i=unlike Bond say he suffers Catholic guilt every time he make it with a woman and is remind of his teacher at school .So he arrives on the cruise where he has to try to persuade Roper to change his mind and not join a cruise , there is a woman Miss Devi a femme fatale  and a teen girl for him to contend with a and the Huge and mysterious mr Theodorescu , whom sound like he was a missing Bond villain a huge balding man who smoked cigars .This is more tension missed chances than action of the bonds say. This is a cat and mouse cruise through the Med as we see if Hiller comes back or was he meant to !!

This must be her boss , Mt Theodorsecu . He was nobel fatness; the fat of his face was part of its essential structure, not a mean gross accretion, and the vastly shapely nose needed those cheek-pads and firm jowls for a proper balance,..The chin was very firm.The eyes weren’t currants in dough but huge and lustrous lamps whose whites seemed to have been polished .He was totally bald , but the smooth scalp – from which a discreet odour of violets breathed – seemed less an affliction than an achievement, as though hair was a mere callow down to be shed in maturity.

The Villian is straight out of a Bond script , a sort of man like the Beast from fantastic four .

This is a tongue in cheek take on a spy novel . He want to change the dry books of say Le Carre,  so Hiller is flawed character  not from OXBridge , but deeper in a way  and unlike Bond isn’t easy with woman due to his upbringing  and for me this is of course the bit of Burgess I like for me he was the first writer I knew that was Northern but with out shouting I am Northern he grew up in the Manchester the same time as my own grandfather in those inter war years he like my grandfather is from a working background his father a piano player and tobacconist , my own great grand parent was a builder my grandfather trained to be architect but at night in the day he work with my grandfather on the build sites sort cleaning brick putting up walls etc so I imagine the two must have crossed paths at some time , not sure they ever did but for me Burgess is after his childhood and teen years he travellled , translated books ,wrote music and was a linguist which all connect him more to this blogger so watch out over the next year we will be travelling the world of Burgess .he is my pile to work through .

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A pile of Burgess nearly at 100

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Well 25th February sees the 100th anniversary of the birth of Anthony Burgess one of the most influential writers of the last hundred years . He wrote from Sci fi , lit and historic fiction . From tales in Shakespeare’s day to the future and violent gangs Burgess had an impressive output I have tried to add his books over the years but when I saw the anniversary was near last year i decide to up my buying now having 26 novels two of those include the Malay trilogy and the enderby books adding to a total and 31 novels of the 35 he wrote also have two non fiction books his 99 novels and a book about language also a short story collection. With a month to go I plan from next month to read one a month for the next few years.

I’ve 99 novels and Anthony burgess isn’t one of them

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Well I’ve  spun on Jay Z’s lyrics  in the title of this piece I’ve long wanted to get hold of the book by Anthony Burgess the best 99 novels in English since 1939 . As a fan of Burgess own work , but also aware that he was quite the cultural commentator back in the day.I felt his choice of 99 novels maybe an interesting list to look at and to work through.I often say I want to try to add a few English novels and as I am of the opinion that nothing of any weight has been written since Burgess passed this looks like the list for me .The bold ones are books I own. I have read a number as well.

  • Party Going, Henry Green
  • After Many a Summer, Aldous Huxley
  • Finnegans Wake, James Joyce
  • At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien

    1940

  • The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
  • Strangers and Brothers (to 1970), C. P. Snow(most of these I have )

    1941

  • The Aerodrome, Rex Warner

    1944

  • The Horse’s Mouth, Joyce Cary
  • The Razor’s Edge, Somerset Maugham

    1945

  • Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  • 1946

  • Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake

    1947

  • The Victim, Saul Bellow
  • Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry

    1948

  • The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene
  • Ape and Essence, Aldous Huxley
  • The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
  • No Highway, Nevil Shute
  • 1949

  • The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
  • The Body, William Sansom

    1950

  • Scenes from Provincial Life, William Cooper
  • The Disenchanted, Budd Schulberg

    1951

  • A Dance to the Music of Time (to 1975), Anthony Powell 3 of 4 collect vols 
  • The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
  • The Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight (to 1969), Henry Williamson
  • The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk

    1952

  • Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  • The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
  • The Groves of Academe, Mary McCarthy
  • Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor
  • Sword of Honour (to 1961), Evelyn Waugh

    1953

  • The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler

    1954

  • Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

    1957

  • Room at the Top, John Braine
  • The Alexandria Quartet (to 1960), Lawrence Durrell
  • The London Novels (to 1960), Colin MacInnes
  • The Assistant, Bernard Malamud

    1958

  • The Bell, Iris Murdoch
  • Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe
  • The Once and Future King, T. H. White

    1959

  • The Mansion, William Faulkner
  • Goldfinger, Ian Fleming

    1960

  • Facial Justice, L. P. Hartley
  • The Balkans Trilogy (to 1965), Olivia Manning

    1961

  • The Mighty and Their Fall, Ivy Compton-Burnett
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  • The Fox in the Attic, Richard Hughes
  • Riders in the Chariot, Patrick White
  • The Old Men at the Zoo, Angus Wilson

    1962

  • Another Country, James Baldwin
  • An Error of Judgment, Pamela Hansford Johnson
  • Island, Aldous Huxley
  • The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  • Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

    1963

  • The Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Spark

    1964

  • The Spire, William Golding
  • Heartland, Wilson Harris
  • A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood
  • The Defence, Vladimir Nabokov
  • Late Call, Angus Wilson

    1965

  • The Lockwood Concern, John O’Hara
  • The Mandelbaum Gate, Muriel Spark

    1966

  • A Man of the People, Chinua Achebe
  • The Anti-Death League, Kingsley Amis
  • Giles Goat-Boy, John Barth
  • The Late Bourgeois World, Nadine Gordimer
  • The Last Gentleman, Walker Percy

    1967

  • The Vendor of Sweets, R. K. Narayan

    1968

  • The Image Men, J. B. Priestley
  • Cocksure, Mordecai Richler
  • Pavane, Keith Roberts

    1969

  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles
  • Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth

    1970

  • Bomber, Len Deighton

    1973

  • Sweet Dreams, Michael Frayn
  • Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

    1975

  • Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow
  • The History Man, Malcolm Bradbury

    1976

  • The Doctor’s Wife, Brian Moore
  • Falstaff, Robert Nye

    1977

  • How to Save Your Own Life, Erica Jong
  • Farewell Companions, James Plunkett
  • Staying On, Paul Scott

    1978

  • The Coup, John Updike

    1979

  • The Unlimited Dream Company, J. G. Ballard
  • Dubin’s Lives, Bernard Malamud
  • A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipaul
  • Sophie’s Choice, William Stryon

    1980

  • Life in the West, Brian Aldiss
  • Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban
  • How Far Can You Go?, David Lodge
  • A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

    1981

  • Lanark, Alasdair Gray
  • Darconville’s Cat, Alexander Theroux
  • The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux
  • Creation, Gore Vidal

    1982

  • The Rebel Angels, Robertson Davies

    1983

  • Ancient Evenings, Norman Mailer

So that is the list it is more than 99 novels aa a number of the books is a series of Novels like the Powell , Williamson and Snow all of which are ten or more novel series. So I plan to work through this over next few years as a challenge. Anyone else like this list ?

A personnel odyssey Anthony Burgess

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Well earlier this year I was lucky to be sent these from Vintage books it is six Anthonh Burgess novels that have been reissued by them ,now if you have read this blog over the years I have mentioned him from time to time he is one of my five all time favourite writers .I haven’t reviewed him on blog yet but when these came it finalised a plan I had in the back of my head for a couple of years and that was to read a number of his books in Late November /early December 2013 ,which marks 20th anniversary of Anthony Burgess death for me it was a great loss of one of the most unique and individual writers the English language has eve produced so with my own collection of books here

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I have 17 novels of the 34 novels listed on Wikipedia as by him if I add in 4 I have wish listed on Amazon for my new kindle that have been published Serpents tail that means 21 novels plus the autobiography little Wilson and big god to read I have made a start reading eve of st Venus already .Now as I said this is a personnel odyssey for me but all are welcome to join in because to me he has always been much more than the one book Clockwork Orange that most people know him for .so from November watch out as from them til e d of 2013 I intend to review all these books not moving from translation but marking an important figure to me as a reader in my reading life .he marked a real change in my reading Habits when I read him in my late teens and early twenties and I feel now is the time to mark that point in my life and honour this great writer before everyone forgets him .For he wrote dystopic fiction, sci fi fiction ,comedy ,historic fiction and philosophical novels but fat from been the writer that moved genres and never succeed he did in nearly every field he tried .Bot bad for a guy that said he was a musician first and writer second

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What is your favourite book by Anthony Burgess ?

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