Lost Anthony Burgess essays reveal his hidden inspirations

Previously unseen work by the Clockwork Orange novelist and journalist discusses censorship, Hemingway and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

Previously unpublished essays by Anthony Burgess have been discovered almost 25 years after his death.

The writings cover a range of subjects, including Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 film, and fellow writers Ernest Hemingway and JB Priestley. They also include an unpublished 1991 lecture on censorship.

Some of the material was discovered in the archives of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, an educational charity in Manchester, the city in which the writer was born in 1917.

Will Carr, the foundation’s deputy director, told the Observer: “Some of the approaches [within the unpublished writings] … may have been considered too personal and reflective, but in retrospect I believe offer fascinating new insights into Burgess’s work.”

Carr has included the essays in a forthcoming book, titled Anthony Burgess, The Ink Trade: Selected Journalism 1961-1993, which will be published next month.

Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis
Artwork for Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis Photograph: www.ronaldgrantarchive.com

Burgess made his name as a satirical novelist with the 1962 publication of A Clockwork Orange, a savage social satire that inspired Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 screen adaptation, known for its violent and sexually explicit scenes. Burgess was a prolific journalist, writing in the Observer for more than 30 years. In the introduction to The Ink Trade, Carr writes that Burgess’s “greatest loyalty was perhaps to the Observer – ‘my paper’, as he called it”. As the book’s editor, Carr notes the “astonishing” breadth of subjects treated by Burgess – from anthropology to the evils of taxation – and observes that this “vast storehouse” of journalism is “as rewarding as the best of his novels”.

In the undated essay on Metropolis, Lang’s vision of a futuristic society, Burgess wrote: “If any movie got near to changing my life, it was this.” Carr said: “Burgess’s love for the film and its ideas is well known as it appears in his autobiography, but this new piece offers a far more detailed engagement with it than elsewhere and says something new about the influence of cinema on his writing.”

The Hemingway essay was written in 1979. Carr said: “Burgess wrote a lot on Hemingway – a whole book, and also a television film, but this piece is a highly personal and somewhat melancholy account of his attitude to his work. Burgess says things here that he doesn’t say anywhere else.”

Burgess writes that Hemingway’s readers expected that the author should be at least as virile as his own creations: “Hemingway obliged them with the Hemingway myth. This myth helped to kill him.”

He continued: “How can you explain to the great public that one of the most important things in the world is to invent a new way of saying things? But nobody cares about style, language, the power of the word. They prefer to hear about failure really being success, about a great writer killing himself at the early age (my age) of 62.”

The essays span Burgess’s journalistic career, including the Yorkshire Post, from which he was sacked after reviewing one of his own books – Inside Mister Enderby, published under the pseudonym Joseph Kell. Apparently assuming that the paper had sent it to him as a joke, he gave it an unflattering review, writing: “It turns sex, religion, the state into a series of laughing stocks. The book itself is a laughing stock.” The review, dated 1963, is included in The Ink Trade. The Yorkshire Post’s humourless response prompted writer Gore Vidal to quip at the time: “At least, he is the first novelist in England to know that a reviewer has actually read the book under review.”


Dalya Alberge

The GuardianTramp

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