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.

Advertisements

Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess #Burgess100

file_000-15

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 .

file_000-7

November 2018
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
%d bloggers like this: