Burgess speaks out for Catholic Europe

Burgess writes (in Little Wilson and Big God, Being the First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess) that he had thought he had freed himself from ‘the nets of Catholicism’. However, provoked by Major Meldrum, he found himself speaking out for Catholic Europe.

I was in Catholic Europe, despite the insistence of the Gibraltarians that they were, though mostly Genoese, really a kind of brown Englishmen. They were Catholic, when they were not Jews, and held baroque processions on feast days. The women went to Mass in mantillas. They were a kind of Iberians who feared Iberia. They preferred brown bobbies to Franco’s policía. But they were of my own kind. They made the sign of the cross and heard the bell of the Angelus. I was drawn to the women with crosses hanging from their delectable necks. The Protestant Lynne was sick and far. I was in warm garlicky unreformed Christendom. As for God, there was God towering high overhead, the mists of the Levant on his brow.

Enderby at the Teatro Cervantes

Extract from Enderby Outside (1968):

Enderby climbed to the top of the low wall by means of an empty Coca-Cola crate and a couple of broken-brick toeholds. He dropped easily, though panting, over the other side. It was an alley he was in now, and this led to a street. The street went downhill and led to other streets. If you kept going down all the time you eventually came to the Avenue d’Espagne, which looked at the plage. That dog place was down there, not far from the Hotel Rif.

It was very steep. Enderby teetered past a crumbling theatre called the Miguel de Cervantes then, finding that the next turning seemed to take him some way uphill again, tried a dark and leafy passage which went unequivocally down. Here a little Moorish girl cried when she saw him, and a number of house-dogs started to bark. But he went gamely on, supporting himself by grasping at broken fences. Precipitous: that was the word. At last he emerged from the barking dark, finding himself on a street where a knot of Moorish boys in smart suits called to him:

‘You want boy, Charlie?’

‘You very hot want nice beer.’

‘For cough,’ said Enderby, in no mood for foreign nonsense, and a boy riposted with:

‘You fuck off too, English fuckpig.’

Enderby didn’t like that. He knew that this place had once belonged to the English, part of Charles II’s Portuguese queen’s dowry. It was not right that he should be addressed like that. But another boy cried:

‘You fucking German. Kaput heilhitler.’

And another:

‘Fucking Yankee motherfucker. You stick chewing-gum up fucking arse.

That showed a certain ingenuity of invective. They were very rude boys, but their apparently indifferent despication of foreigners was perhaps a healthy sign, stirring in sympathy a limp G-string in his own nature. He nodded at them and, more kindly, said once more:

‘For cough.’

They seemed to recognise his change of tone, for they merely pronged two fingers each in his direction, one or two of them emitting a lip-fart. Then they started to playfight, yelping, among themselves. Enderby continued his descent, coming soon to a hotel-and-bar on his left called Al-Djenina. The forecourt had bird cages in it, the birds all tucked up for the night, and Enderby could distinctly see, through the long bar-window, middle-aged men drunk and embracing each other. Those would, he thought, be expatriate writers. He was, of course, one of those himself now, but he was indifferent to the duties and pleasures of sodality. He was on his own, waiting. He had written, though. He was working on things. The wind from the sea upheld him as he tottered to level ground. Here it was then: the Avenue d’Espagne, as they called it.

Hotel Rif, Tangiers

From Burgess’s 1968 novel Enderby Outside:

It was necessary that he stay near Rawcliffe’s beach-place, not to let his quarry slip out of his tan-polished hands. It was not windy now, but it was not warm. Autumnal Morocco. He could doze, all hunched up, in the shadow of the Acantilado Verde. In the morning he could drink coffee and eat a piece of bread (there was a dirham or so still in his pocket) and then, an eye open for Rawcliffe, get down to begging. There was a lot of begging here: no shame in it. There were a couple of rich hotels near the Acantilado Verdethe Rif and the Miramar: good begging pitches.

Damned apes of Gib

Burgess points out in his autobiography that the Nazis implanted in the Spaniards the superstition that when the apes left Gibraltar, the British would leave too.

Therefore, he writes, ‘on Winston Churchill’s insistence, the Rock apes had to be encouraged to flourish. They had to be fed and their breeding blessed, and there was even a Sergeant i/c Rock Apes’.

Gibraltar: sex frustration

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-22-08-30The priapic novelist confesses in the first volume of his autobiography (Little Wilson and Big God, Being the First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess) to having attempted on the Rock to ravish a heavily scented, brown-bosomed Gibraltarian belle. She yielded at first, then loudly screamed, and fought him off with the help of her girlfriends. ‘I drooped, I nearly wept, I was ashamed. I was also resentful,’ Burgess writes.

Gibraltar: Burgess’s vain search for sex

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-19-04-53On the rock, writes Burgess in Little Wilson and Big God,

there were to be no women. All had been evacuated to zones of safety like Belfast and Greater London. There had once been regulated brothels in Gibraltar, but a pious Lieutenant-Governor’s wife had had these abolished. ‘You’ll have to wank, lads,’ said a sergeant sadly.

Carnal relief could be found across the frontier in La Línea de la Concepción, where ladies of the night abounded, though Burgess felt it

shameful to engage in a simulacrum of love for money, and I still feel shame at having carried an urgency over the border to discharge in a wretched room smelling of garlic and cheap scent.

He attempted to find female companionship in Gibraltar, without apparent success. He pursued Gibraltarian women, visiting them in their homes, but once it was discovered that he was married,

I was kicked out at once as a philanderer, and there was no more tea in tiny flats on Castle Steps or Hampton Ramp.

La Línea and carnal relief

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-19-38-20La Línea de la Concepción ‘was full of mantillaed prostitutes. I carried an urgency over the border to discharge in a wretched room smelling of garlic and cheap scent. I have learnt to associate garlic with the erotic and to feel excited at the sound of Andalusian Spanish in the mouth of a girl’.

Plastic plaque


‘This was not quite the honour I wanted.’

Hotel Velázquez Palace, Tangiers

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-20-53-26The Hotel Velázquez Palace is where Burgess and his wife Lynne stayed on their second trip to Tangiers. They were on a Mediterranean air tour (Burwash-Gatwick-Jersey-Seville-Marrakesh-Tangiers-Tenerife-Gatwick-Etchingham).

Whereas the Hotel Miramar, where they had stayed on their first visit, is on the Tangiers seafront, the Velázquez Palace is up the hill, round the corner from the Gran Teatro Cervantes, and much nearer the casbah.

Lynne had suffered a collapse and appears to have been confined to bed at their room at the hotel, suffering from exhaustion and food poisoning. Tangiers was — possibly still is — known as Sodom-on-Sea, and in You’ve Had Your Time, Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess, Burgess explains that at the Velázquez Palace, ’despite her sickness, Lynne’s sharp eyes (sa-rupa pisau*) searched for signs of pederastic inclinations in myself’.

William Burroughs appeared at the hotel and read Jane Austen to Lynne (just as he had done at the Miramar).

* Malay, lit. ‘knife-like’


screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-17-42-12Burgess on A Little Learning (1964), the first volume of the autobiography of Evelyn Waugh. Waugh died before he could publish a second volume.