Hotel Miramar, Tangiers

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-21-43-25Burgess writes in You’ve Had Your Time, Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess: ‘In the Miramar Hotel, Lynne lay in bed while I incessantly rolled cigarettes of adulterated kif for her. William Burroughs would read funereally Jane Austen to her as she lay. His cured junkie heart homed to Regency stability.’

Enderby finds that the Miramar is one of ‘a couple of rich hotels near the Acantilado Verde’ — the other being the Rif— that are ‘good begging pitches’. (He operates successfully as a beggar for a time.)

Opposite the Miramar is a taxi-stand from which the Turkish Delight commercial doorman whistles for a taxi to come over.

Moss Side

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-18-38-11A stroll in the quarter of Manchester where dwelt the young Burgess for a time.

‘…the cats roamed at night and screamed, that was our only evening music…dustbins, sly copulation…squalor, squalor.’

Bamber Bridge

The pub where Burgess made a little extra money by playing the piano at weekends

The pub where Burgess made a little extra money by playing the piano at weekends

Burgess writes of those who dwelt in Bamber Bridge:

A tough people who went their own way, kept a dour sense of humour in all circumstances, and always contrived to enjoy life, the lads and lasses of the Brigg have probably by now succumbed to the mondial plastic culture which is killing our old folkways and rendering travel to foreign parts a waste of time. The Brigg folk have probably been supermarketed and computerised and televised out of merriment.

(from ‘The Brigg’, his 1983 memoir)

1980 Sexist Pig of the Year

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-21-10-36The award came from the Female Publishers of Great Britain.

Burgess wrote:

‘Cleaning out my son‘s bedroom the other day (he has gone to Paris to work as an apprentice fish chef in the all-male kitchens of Le Fouquet) I came across a partly eaten pig in pink marzipan. It had come, apparently, in the Christmas mail and was so ill-wrapped that neither its provenance nor purpose was apparent. My son thought it was an eccentric gift from one of his friends. Now, quite by chance, I discover (a matter of an old Punch in a thanatologist‘s waiting room) that it was a trophy sent by the Female Publishers of Great Britain to myself as one of the Sexist Pigs of the year. I forget who the others were, but I think one of them published a picture book on the beauty of the female breast. What my own sin against woman was I am not sure, but I‘m told that it may have been a published objection to the name the Virago Press (women publishers publishing women) had chosen for itself.

‘Now all my dictionaries tell me that a virago is a noisy, violent, ill-tempered woman, a scold or a shrew. There is, true, an archaic meaning which makes a virago a kind of amazon, a woman strong, brave and warlike. But the etymology insists on a derivation from Latin vir, a man, and no amount of semantic twisting can force the word into a meaning which denotes intrinsic female virtues as opposed to ones borrowed from the other sex. I think it was a silly piece of naming, and it damages what is a brave and valuable venture. The Virago Press has earned my unassailable gratitude for reprinting the Pilgrimage of Dorothy Richardson, and I said so publicly. But I get from its warlike officers only a rude and stupid insult, and I cannot laugh it off. Women should not behave like that, nor men either.

‘It has already been said, perhaps too often, that militant organizations pleading the rights of the supposedly oppressed ‒ blacks, homosexuals, women ‒ begin with reason but soon fly from it. On this basic level of language they claim the right to distort words to their own ends. I object to the delimitation of ‘gay‘. American blacks are not the only blacks in the world: the Tamils of India and Sri Lanka are far blacker. ‘Chauvinistic‘ stands for excessive patriotism and not for other kinds of sectional arrogance. ‘Pig’ is an abusive word which libels a clean and tasty animal: it is silly, and it can be ignored. But ‘sexist‘ is intended to have a precise meaning, and, on learning that I was a sexist pig, I felt it necessary to start thinking about the term.

‘As far as I can make out, one ought to be a sexist if one preaches or practices discrimination of any kind towards members of the other sex. In practice, a sexist is always male, and his sexism consists in his unwillingness to accept the world view of women in one or other or several or all of its aspects. This means, in my instance, that if I will not accept the meaning the Virago Press imposes on its chosen name, I qualify, by feministic logic, for the pink pig. But I cannot really believe it is as simple as that. The feminists must have other things against me but none of them will speak out and say what they are.

‘In the Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing, Elizabeth Janeway, discussing women‘s literature, considers a book by Mary Ellmann called Thinking About Women. She says: ‘It is worth being reminded of how widespread and how respectable has been the unquestioned assumption of women‘s inevitable, innate, and significant otherness, and Ellmann here collects utterances on the subject not only from those we might expect (Norman Mailer, Leslie Fiedler, Anthony Burgess) but from Robert Lowell, Malamud, Beckett, and Reinhold Niebuhr.‘ Note both the vagueness and the obliqueness. There can be no vaguer word in the world than ‘otherness‘. The vagueness is a weapon. Since it is not defined, the term ‘otherness‘ can mean whatever its users wish, rather like ‘virago‘. The position of people like Mailer and Burgess and Fiedler vis-à-vis this ‘otherness‘ does not have to be defined either: we have an intuitive knowledge of their qualities, and, between women, no more need be said.

‘That women are ‘other‘, meaning different from men, is one of the great maxims of the feminists. They are biologically different, think and feel differently. But men must not say so, for with men the notion of difference implies a value judgement: women are not like us, therefore they must be inferior to us. I myself have never said or written or even thought this. What I am prepared to see as a virtue in myself (as also in Mailer and Fiedler and other pigs) is ‒ because of the feminist insistence on this damnable otherness ‒ automatically transformed by such women as read into a vice. I mean the fact that I admire women, love the qualities in them that are different from my own male ones, but will not be seduced by their magic into accepting their values in areas where only neutral values should apply. Here, of course, the trouble lies. Women don‘t believe there are neutral zones: what males call neutral they call male.

‘I believe, for instance, that in matters of art we are in a zone where judgements have nothing to do with sex. In considering the first book the Virago Press brought out ‒ the masterpiece of Dorothy Richardson ‒ I did not say that here we had a great work of women‘s literature, but rather here we had a great work which anticipated some of the innovations of James Joyce. I should have stressed that this was a work by a woman, and the womanly aspect of the thing didn‘t seem to me to be important. I believe that the sex of an author is irrelevant, because any good writer contains both sexes. But what we are hearing a lot of now, especially in American colleges, is the heresy that Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina can‘t be good portraits of women because they are written by men. These are not aesthetic judgements: they are based on an a priori position which refuses to be modified by looking at the facts. The feminists just don‘t want men to be able to understand women. On the other hand, women are quite sure they understand men, and nobody finds fault with the male creations of the Brontës or of Jane Austen.

‘Let‘s get out of literature and into life. I think I am quite capable of seeing the feminist point of view with regard to men‘s sexual attitude to women. I am strongly aware of the biological polarity, and it intrudes where women say it shouldn‘t. I am incapable of having neutral dealings with a woman. Consulting a woman doctor or lawyer, shaking hands with a woman prime minister, listening to a sermon by a woman minister of religion, I cannot help letting the daydream of a possible sexual relashionship intrude. That this diminishes the woman in question I cannot deny. It depersonalizes her, since the whole sexual process necessarily involves depersonalization: this is nature‘s fault, not man‘s. Women object to their reduction into ‘sex objects‘, but this is what nature decrees when the erotic process gets to work. While writing this I am intermittently watching a most ravishing lady on French television. She is talking about Kirkegaard, but I am not taking much of that in. Aware of her charms as she must be, she ought to do what that beautiful lady professor of mathematics did at the University of Bologna in the Middle Ages ‒ talk from behind a screen, meaning talk on the radio. But then the voice itself, a potent sex signal, would get in the way.

‘This awareness of the sexual power of women, I confess, induces attitudes which are, from the feminist angle, unworthy. At Brown‘s Hotel a woman porter proposed carrying my bags upstairs. It was her job, she said, but I could not let her do it. Old as I am, I still give up my seat to women far younger when on a bus or tube train. This is a protective tenderness wholly biological in origin. How can I apologise for it when it is built into my glands? Women are traditionally (but this is, I admit, possibly a man-imposed tradition) slower to be sexually moved than are men, and this enables them to maintain a neutral relationship with the other sex in offices and consulting rooms.

‘I believe what women tell me to believe ‒ namely, that they can do anything men can do except impregnate and carry heavy loads (though this latter was contradicted by the girl at Brown‘s Hotel). Nevertheless, I have to carry this belief against weighty evidence to the contrary. Take music, for instance. Women have never been denied professional music instruction ‒ indeed, they used to be encouraged to have it ‒ but they have not yet produced a Mozart or a Beethoven. I am told by feminists that all this will change some day, when women have learned how to create like women composers, a thing men have prevented their doing in the past. This seems to me to be nonsense, and it would be denied by composers like Thea Musgrave and the shade of the late Dame Ethel Smyth (a great feminist herself, the composer of The March of the Women as well as The Wreckers and The Prison, which the liberationists ought to do something about reviving). I believe that artistic creativity is a male surrogate for biological creativity, and that if women do so well in literature it may be that literature is, as Mary McCarthy said, closer to gossip than to art. But no one will be happier than I to see women produce the greatest art of all time, so long as women themselves recognise that the art is more important than the artist.

‘I see that most, if not all, of what I say above is likely to cause feminist rage and encourage further orders to pink-pig manufacturers (did the Virago Press search for a woman confectioner?). But, wearily, I recognise that anything a man says is liable to provoke womanly hostility in these bad and irrational times. A man, by his very nature, is incapable of saying the right thing to a woman unless he indues the drag of hypocrisy. Freud, bewildered, said: ‘What does a woman want?‘ I don‘t think, despite the writings of Simone de Beauvoir, Caroline Bird, Sara Evans, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Elizabeth Janeway, Kate Millett, Juliet Mitchell, Sarah B. Pomeroy, Marian Ramelson, Alice Rossi, Sheila Rowbotham, Dora Russell, Edith Thomas, Mary Wollstonecraft and the great Virginia herself, the question has yet been answered, except negatively. What women dont want is clear ‒ their subjection to the patriarchal image, male sexual exploitation, and all the rest of it. When positive programmes emerge ‒ like the proposed desexualization‘ of language ‒ we men have an uneasy intimation of the possible absurdity of the whole militant movement. I refuse to say Ms, which is not a real vocable, and I object to ‘chairperson‘ and the substitution of ‘ovarimony‘ to ‘testimony‘. And I maintain (a) that a virago is a detestable kind of woman and (b) that feminist militancy should not condone bad manners. If that pink pig had not been thrown in the garbage bin I should tell the women publishers of Britain what to do with it.’

Banbury Grammar School

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-20-55-46Banbury Grammar School (now defunct) in Ruskin Road just outside the Oxfordshire market town. Anthony Burgess was an assistant master here between 1950 and 1954. It was during these years that he wrote his version of the ring cycle, The Worm and the Ring, which was not published until 1960 (and pulped after the school secretary complained of being libelled). The book displayed is the revised (1970) edition.

Extracts from the novel:

In the suburb, lashed by the March shower, the new school stood, waiting to be unwrapped. Its yellow-white freestone lent new dignity to the sandy windy hill of red houses like boxes, each with its regulation square lawn and television aerial. It was like a recently created title come to live among the decently snobbish chief clerks, car salesmen, and dress buyers. The building was handsome and slick, suggesting a kind of H.G. Wells Hellenism. There were wide high windows covering the lengthy façade, well-proportioned and decently spaced, and the airy portico evoked, with its slim columns topped with ram’s-horn volutes, the leisured dialectics of a never-ending Platonic summer.

‘But you like her, don’t you? You like Mrs Connor?’ For himself, thought Howarth, he did not particularly like Mrs Connor. He desired Mrs Connor, however.

Howarth began to see that, however much it was against one’s will and convictions, sides had to be taken, the dreary corrupt world of politics had to be entered by the good and dispassionate, to protect and avenge the weak. But one always entered too late.

There was a silence. Outside, and most unfortunately, a boy could be heard calling to another boy: ‘Piss off, Cowie.’ Stern looks were fixed on Woolton.

‘Do come round this morning,’ said Woolton to his wife…. Both silly old women, he thought….To be alone again, to be free of women, a celibate scholar, witty, witty sometimes with delicate impropriety, whose monographs were admired, whose major work on Pindar…

Venerean bus shelter

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-18-16-48Burgess, who served in Gibraltar during part of the Second World War and for some time after VE Day, like all the other British soldiers did his whoring in the frontier town of La Línea de la Concepción.

He writes in Little Wilson and Big God that the army had built ‘a kind of venerean bus shelter with running water for the laving of the penis, midway between the Spanish frontier and the North Shore airfield’.

He continues: ‘I still feel shame at having carried an urgency over the border to discharge in a wretched room smelling of garlic and cheap scent. And yet I have learned to associate garlic with the erotic.’


Burgess speaking in ’72

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-21-29-03Burgess on

  • being a teacher
  • the revolutionary firing squad
  • Nausicaä
  • university lecturers who ‘get down with the kids’
  • the young
  • tabulae rasae
  • how the novelist uses experience
  • the lessons of the past
  • Homer
  • the need to avoid cynicism

Burgess interviewed in the USA

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-09-45-461971. Burgess on

  • the impossibility of writing in London
  • attempting to discover something about what Shakespeare was really like
  • the pretence of certain clergymen about Shakespeare
  • his alleged nervous collapse in Borneo
  • being accused of letting the side down by failing to write costively
  • being hounded out of Brunei for political reasons
  • the right not to be aborted
  • the pub
  • the impossibility of writing in Dublin
  • pubescent creative efforts
  • the hard-heartedness of the writing profession
  • his motherfucking novel

Burgess interviewing in ’74

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-22-43-10Burgess on

  • Orwell’s A Clergyman’s Daughter
  • micturition
  • fellow Lancastrian Stan Laurel
  • Enderby
  • the stage
  • the writer’s trade
  • candour
  • losing his virginity
  • the importance of lying
  • the novelist’s unhealthy lifestyle
  • Henry James
  • the reader over his shoulder
  • prolificacy
  • producing a second work
  • martyrdom
  • what the fiscal tyrants have wrought

Burgess interviewed in ’71

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 21.44.35Burgess on

  • that Friday worn-out feeling after a week of hard work
  • the game of American football
  • his house in Princeton
  • how to deal with the aggrieved parent of a student with poetic aspirations
  • Elizabethan English
  • how Shakespeare spoke
  • being of Irish extraction
  • being a northerner
  • Shakespeare’s genius
  • how his pianoplaying father got the sack after an unfortunate incident at the cinema
  • trying to be a composer
  • his late start as a writer
  • the problem of Künstler Schuld
  • the creative demon
  • a moose and a mouse
  • contrasts between London and New York
  • his novel A Clockwork Orange
  • the vigour of the American language