Portrait of Anthony Burgess ©

Jerry Bauer

Writer Anthony Burgess, famous for his dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange, lends his name to a literary venue in Manchester that considers the author’s legacy as well as presenting new work by writers, artists and musicians.

Anthony Burgess is best known for his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, a dystopian crime story depicting a gang of youths and their subculture of “ultraviolence”. The book was considered so shocking that in 1973 a bookseller was arrested for selling it, and it was removed from a number of libraries across the USA.

While A Clockwork Orange is undoubtedly his most famous work, Burgess has left a remarkable legacy of fiction, poetry and criticism beyond this seminal novel. His works touch on subjects including colonialism, Islam, homosexuality and pornography, which remain at the forefront of contemporary literature and philosophy.

A wide-ranging archive

Established in 2003 by Liana Burgess, an Italian translator and the second wife of Anthony Burgess, the Burgess Foundation is an independent charity that encourages research into the life and work of the Lancashire-born writer. The Foundation houses a library and study centre, boasting a vast bank of material on subjects that relate to the author, ranging from unpublished plays and film scripts to cassette tapes, letters and manuscript scores. The archive also contains family photographs and personal artefacts, including items that relate to Manchester in the pre-war period.

Digging deeper

The Foundation podcast series The Burgess Foundation has produced a series of podcasts covering themes and issues that arise from the author’s work, which feature the voice of the great writer himself. The first podcast in the series, which you can listen to below, explores the notions of dystopia that permeate Burgess’s work, discovers the influence of writers like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, and asks how Burgess’s experiences in the Second World War informed his writing.

The legacy of Shakespeare looms large over any significant British writer, and Burgess was no exception. In episode two, we hear Burgess describe himself as “novelist, critic and Shakespeare lover”, and the podcast goes on to examine Burgess’s biography of Shakespeare and the ways in which the playwright influenced Burgess’s own writing.

For those unfamiliar with Burgess’s most famous novel, episode five of the podcast is a good place to start. The podcast begins by tracing the inspiration for A Clockwork Orange. It also discusses Stanley Kubrick's controversial film adaptation, introducing the strange and violent world of the “droogs” – the gang at the centre of the story. Check out the link below to listen.

International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester ©


A new space for new talent

Alongside its work on the author himself, the Burgess Foundation also runs a space that showcases new literary talent, the Engine House. Housed inside one of Manchester’s oldest mill buildings, the venue is furnished with Burgess’s own artefacts, creating a unique environment for a variety of events.

Recent events hosted at the Burgess Foundation include talks related to some of the author’s main thematic concerns. Winners of the Banipal Prize, given for Arabic literature in English translation, have given lectures and interviews, and events highlighting contemporary Japanese writing attest to the Foundation’s consideration of internationalism and colonialism. The Foundation’s commitment to the local area is also demonstrated through its involvement in the Manchester Writing School, run in conjunction with Manchester Metropolitan University; as its name suggests, the International Anthony Burgess Foundation has a global reach while nurturing local literary talent.

See also

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