This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Saturday Rave: the works of Anthony Burgess.

All novels are experimental, said Anthony Burgess, who was born a hundred years ago today. It's not quite true, but it's a nice idea, and perhaps they should be.

I'm very fond of, and recommend, Burgess's lovely Enderby Books, but Anthony Burgess is most famous for having written the novel upon which the film A Clockwork Orange was based. This is what he said about it:

The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate: written a quarter of a century ago, a jeu d'esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.

There we are: a clear and convincing explanation, in the beautiful prose that's representative of Burgess's work. Burgess is instinctively humane and often funny, but above all, I think, elegant.

Here's a bit from that book he repudiates as a knocked-off jeu d'esprit:

The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came a violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk around my bed. Then flute and oboe bored, like worms of like platinum, into the thick toffee gold and silver. I was in such bliss, my brothers.

So just imagine what Burgess can do when he's actually trying...

Word To Use Today: gulliver. A lot of the made-up words in A Clockwork Orange are based on Russian (he also knew Malay, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Welsh, as well as some Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese Swedish and Persian). Gulliver here means head, and comes from the Russian golová.

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