Author Archives: Geoffrey Grigson

New York

In the early 1970s, the Burgess family — AB, Liana, Andrea, and their Ethiopian maid — lived at Apartment 10D, 670 West End Avenue, in New York in the USA.

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Seattle

Burgess writes in his autobiography:

I foresaw, and said so, that

  • student indiscipline
  • victimisation of the faculty, and
  • the elevation of racial rights above the demands of scholarship

were going to degrade the study of the liberal arts, kill the departments of humanities, and leave the real work in the hands of the students of computer engineering.

Tangiers: Medina

Extract from Burgess’s novel of Tangiers, Enderby Outside (1968):

Tangiers sounded like just the sort of place a man of Rawcliffe’s type would end up in. Moorish catamites. Drinking himself to death. Drinking was too slow a process.

His true place was that Kasbah, high up at the end of the town, where beggars slept at night in the doorways of shark shops, all Rif rifles from the iron-founding Midlands.

Up there the white huddled Medina on the hill, once watchful of the sea-invaders. Blood and buggery, the Koranic cry of teeth as the scimitar slashed. And now a pretty cram of stucco for the visiting painter. Donkeys, palms, the odd insolent Cadillac with a sneering wealthy young Moor in dark glasses. This bilious sea. There were not, thank Allah, many police about and, in any case, they did not greatly molest beggars.

‘Give him something, George, go on. Poor old man.’

And the plebeian tourist, in open-necked shirt and double-breasted town suit, handed Enderby a tiny clank of centimes. His wife, growing a lobster colour that was vulgarly Blackpool, smiled in pity. Enderby bowed and allahed.

It was really surprising what you could pick up on this game — handfuls of small tinkle that often added up to well over a dirham, filthy torn notes that the donors probably thought carried plague, the absurd largesse of holiday drunks. He was eating, if not sleeping, well on it all. Arab bread with melon-and-ginger confiture, yummiyum couscous (better than Easy Walker’s), fowl-hunks done with saffron, thin veal-shives in a carraway sauce — all at a quiet fly-buzzing incurious shop near the little Souk or Succo, one that had, moreover, a Western WC instead of a hazardous wog crouch-hole. He was also drinking a fair quantity of mint-tea, good for his stomach.

 

The Caribbean

Requests from commerce, Burgess writes in You’ve Had Your Time, Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess, are best rejected by

asking for an exorbitant fee, travel by Concorde, and a hotel suite. But to the great firms and combines, money is better paid to me than to the taxman, and I find myself hoist. Yet demands for maximal comfort cannot always be met by the promoters: one can find oneself in the absent hands of strikers or frustrated by one’s stupidity as a traveller.’

He gives an example of what he calls this dual derangement.

Tangiers and the comeuppance of Mr Lodge

The first time Burgess and his wife Lynne visited Tangiers, it was as part of a Mediterranean package tour. The couple were joined by

a decent middle-class herd of meagre drinkers and unadventurous eaters.

Their dragoman was a Mr Lodge,

who put on a little woolly cap like Dr Spindrift’s so that he might be identifiable to his flock when he led them through mobs of redolent pickpockets and bottom-pinchers.

One day, Lynne was slow in boarding the airport bus, and

Mr Lodge publicly rebuked her.

Big mistake. The opportunity arose for Burgess to pay Mr Lodge back for his insolence.

Marrakesh

Burgess writes that his wife Lynne

felt very ill and was plainly exhausted when we reached Marrakesh. The French proprietress of the Hôtel Maroc blamed her sickness on the cuisine espagnole. I drank heavily and alone in the hotel bar. In our bedroom I found a young Berber in a striped waistcoat preparing to get into bed with Lynne and arguing about how much she was willing to pay for his services. An American lady, he alleged, had given him five hundred dirhams. He had to be punched and thrown out by a weary husband. There was no repose on any of our holidays.

Wellington

In Wellington, writes Burgess,

blandness was merely the thin surface of a bubbling muddy unrest among the young. It was as the author of a novel they considered subversive, though it was merely theological, that they tried to force drugs on me, affirming that I would write better stoned.

At the airport after their tour, Burgess and Liana

drank cocktails called Death in the Afternoon while waiting for the afternoon flight to Fiji. A girl named Helen Bradshaw, one of the New Zealand secretaries in Brunei, appeared in hail and farewell to mourn Lynne’s death. ‘She had death in her face. It always seemed to me that she wanted to die.‘ Too much death altogether before a flight to Fiji.

Tangiers

Burgess writes in his autobiography that Tangiers was

all junkies and pederasts.

He confesses to carnal longing:

I would have liked to seize one of these kohl-eyed houris in a yashmak and kiss her from her neat brown ankles up.

Rotorua

The waitresses at the motel, Burgess writes in his autobiography, were

glorious Maori girls.

He was in Rotorua to open a convention of booksellers, who, he says,

exulted in their thriving greeting-card, paper doily and Barbara Cartland businesses and disparaged literature as a nuisance — hard to sell and it got in the way of the doilies. The next morning I thundered about booksellers’ responsibility and attacked suburban philistinism.

Gibraltar

Burgess wrote in a 1967 article:

A rock of preposterous size with a town crowded around it. A bit of geographical Spain — sun and balconies and yellow stucco — but with British-looking bobbies in the streets, and pounds, shillings and pence in the emporia. The claustrophobic atmosphere of a besieged garrison, but also a sense of immense width: on a fine day from the top of the Rock you can see the time on the town clock in African Ceuta; from Moorish Castle you can find — like a lost coin — the bullring in Spanish Algeciras. The biscuit-coloured beauty of the girls, an Anglican cathedral in the form of a mosque, baroque processions on Corpus Christi, Sherry from Jerez, tepid bitter from Burton-on-Trent.