The Real Life of Anthony Burgess by Andrew Biswell - review by John McDermott

John McDermott

A Genuine Fake

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess


Picador 418pp £20 order from our bookshop

Angers, in the Loire Valley, is a pleasant little town with two modest claims to notice: it is twinned with Wigan, and it houses the Anthony Burgess Center. Such an arrangement might well have pleased Burgess. First, it has an echo of the Catholic Lancashire he bogusly made so much of and fled from, opting like Joyce for silence (well, hardly that), exile and cunning (plenty of that; secondly, it locates him in a Europe far removed from the England where he suffered what he called the ‘malevolence’ of the literary establishment. The rest of his literary remains are scattered, just as promiscuously, in Manchester, Texas and elsewhere.

There is a growing literature about Burgess, and much of it is non-British in origin, which would have pleased his perverse sense of himself as a prophet without honour in his own country. In 2002 we had Roger Lewis’s barmy but brilliant biography, and now along comes Andrew Biswell’s hefty

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Princeton - Shame