A Clockwork Orange – 20 Facts about Anthony Burgess

By February 25, 2016November 22nd, 2017Authors, Literature

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.

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One Comment

  • mimi brown says:

    I seem to remember a book Burgess wrote titled’A Long Trip to Tea Time’. A children’s or young adult book I purchased in the late 80’s, early 90’s. It was likened to The Narnia series, but it was much darker than C.S.Lewis.

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