Anthony Burgess is probably best known for his futuristic and extremely violent 1962 Dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange which achieved cult status when it was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. However it may surprise you to find out that this book is just a very tiny part of who Anthony Burgess was.
We have gathered together some fascinating facts about Burgess the author, the husband, and the man behind the Droogs!
- During the Spanish Civil War, Anthony Burgess was imprisoned for calling Franco a filthy swine.
- He hated Stanley Kubrick’s film of A Clockwork Orange and actually walked out of the premiere claiming it was ‘too violent’.
- He was born John Wilson; Anthony was his confirmation name and he took his mother’s maiden name Burgess as his surname.
- He could speak 10 languages, French, German, Russian, Malay, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Welsh, Chinese, Swedish, along with a little Hebrew and a smattering of others.
- Which is probably a good job as he lived in Spain, Malta, Gibraltar, Monaco, France, Switzerland, Italy, the United States and Malaysia.
- Burgess lost both his mother and his sister whilst very young and grew up with a cruel and unloving stepmother.
- Not only this but he was mercilessly bullied throughout his childhood and his first sexual experience was an abusive one perpetrated by an older woman.
- To overcome these traumas Burgess turned to music and is now considered an important musical discovery; with extensive pieces of music, from symphonies to string pieces being compared to Elgar.
- Burgess is considered to be a noted expert on Joyce, Marlowe and Shakespeare and has written books about all three of them.
- He only turned to writing at the relatively late age of 40 after being diagnosed with a terminal tumour in his brain and being given a year to live.
‘Mr W.S.: A Ballet on the Career of William Shakespeare’ (Anthony Burgess, 1979). Paul Phillips conducting.
- Burgess made up an entirely new language in A Clockwork Orange using the Slavic languages as a model.
- He was a self driven workaholic and would often write more than one book at a time and then compose music in the evenings to relax.
- During WW2 Burgess worked in an insane asylum, allegedly he was also forced to observe an autopsy.
- Burgess would often say things publicly with the sole aim to shock. He was once awarded the male chauvinist pig of the year award by a feminist press.
- Despite this, in real life Burgess was generous and loyal to a fault, even to those undeserving with him often being described by friends as unassuming, modest and courageous.
- Soylent Green, the futuristic cannibal movie starring Charlton Heston, was based on a story by Burgess called The Wanting Seed.
- He was an excellent cook with his speciality being curries of all kinds.
- Amazingly Burgess used the real-life rape of his own wife, Lynne, as a model for the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange.
- Although recognised for A Clockwork Orange, Burgess wrote over 35 novels, many librettos and screenplays and was a literary critic.
- He was given one year to live for a second time in 1992 and once again courageously fought the diagnosis, but this time he sadly lost. On November 22nd, 1993, he died of lung cancer in London, aged 76.