Fictional works of AB and the problem of classification

What is Anthony Burgess’s greatest work? Earthly Powers, you might say, though the critic Martin Seymour-Smith considered it incoherent — a ‘ragbag’ with ‘some passages of brilliance but others of tedious muddle’. I cannot agree. But if you want an unqualified masterpiece, about which there can surely be little dispute, look no further than ‘Novel, The‘, Burgess’s entry in Encyclopædia Britannica (1974 edition). Consider this sentence:

The various forms that fiction may take are best seen less as a number of separate categories than as a…cline.

This is especially true of the work of Burgess himself. If you look at the picture below of a shelf of Burgess’s fictional works, you will find that it excludes the libretto Blooms of Dublin (written in Savosa), the Carmen, Oedipus the King and Cyrano de Bergerac translations, the new text of James Planché’s Oberon, and the Cavalier of the Rose adaptation — the thinking being that these are not comprehensively Burgess’s creative work. But a case could be made for including them, since they are utterly Burgessian. A case could also be jocosely made for including on the fiction shelf Burgess’s autobiography, since chunks of it — how much exactly? — is plainly invention.

Novels, plays, poetry, short stories of Anthony Burgess

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