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by Anthony Burgess


My 1968 passport photograph shows a meaty confident cattle-broker with a biblical nose, sly eyes, and the slack mouth of one who is evidently drunk. AB5


The new one (taken, admittedly, at nine on a crapulous autumn morning in the basement studio of a store on Regent Street) is of a victim-haunted murderer-at-large, the lips thin and pursed, cheeks sunken, eyes bagged - old, certainly old. "This passport expires," says Page 2, "October 16, 1988." Its holder will, I think, have expired some time before then. A ghastly thought, that this should be one's last passport.


What strikes me particularly, apart from the horrid evidence of age, is that the upper lip has, in the last ten years, grown more simian, more Irish. My Italian wife, fighting to prevent my paying German and French tax on my literary earnings, has become interested in my Irish ancestry. If I can provide evidence that I really had a grandmother called Mary Ann Finnegan, and that she was born in the county of Tipperary, I may be able to get an Irish passport and invoke those reciprocal fiscal arrangements that will keep the French and German tax hounds off. So, I am turning into an Irishman. My son, who is Anglo-Italian, has revolted against the French culture pumped into him in Monaco and has decided that he is Scots. He goes around the rues and boulevards in a kilt and sporran. Whatever my old age is to be, it seems likely to stress the Celt in me, and hence him, and diminish the Anglo-Saxon.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 10:47
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In : Les Cahiers de la nouvelle = Journal of the Short Story in English, n° 2, janvier 1984, pp. 31-47. © Université d'Angers.


I approach the short story from a rather negative angle because it is not a form I practice, and indeed, I do approach it now with a great deal of difficulty, especially in the presence of very reputable practitioners of the form, like my own compatriot and fellow writer, John Wain. But it is a useful thing, occasionally, to approach a form that one knows a little about negatively, because it tells the speaker something about himself. This is rather selfish, but I only speak on these occasions to learn something. I am not at all concerned with teaching you anything. I don't think I can. But I always feel that any practitioner in the art of narrative fiction ought to be able to manage all its forms. We take it for granted that a musician can manage the large forms as well as the short and anybody who sets himself up ­ professionally, commercially, esthetically ­ as a writer of fiction, ought to be able to manage the big Proustian novel as well as the smallest possible anecdote. As you know, the shortest science fiction story ever written goes like this : " that morning the sun rose in the west ". You ought to be able to manage that as well as the roman fleuve.

Now I have, I must confess, a certain disdain for the short story in the present phase of my development, chiefly because I cannot practice it. I would like to feel that I have abandoned the form, but I know that the form has abandoned me ; hence it is dead. But if I can, to begin with a very brief biographia literaria, I could through recounting my very early love affair with the short story, perhaps tell you something about the form in relation to myself.

Last Updated on Sunday, 06 February 2011 14:24
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Interviewer: What literary significance does this book [A Clockwork Orange] have?


A.B.: In a sense this book does state what I’m always trying to state in my work; that man is free, that man was granted the gift of free will and that he can choose, and that if he decides to choose evil rather than to choose good, this is in his nature and it is not the task of the state to kill this capacity for choice.

In effect the book A Clockwork Orange says that it is better for a man to do evil of his own free will than for the state to turn him into a machine which can only do good. I mean in this sense, I’ve been using the theme of free will in novel after novel, but this book is different from the others in that it uses a specially contrived language and also in that it makes far more explicit use of violence than in any other of my work.

I don’t like violence, I don’t like presenting violence in my books, I don’t like, even, presenting the act of sex in my books; I am naturally timid about these things.

But in writing A Clockwork Orange, I was so appalled at the prospect before us, in the late 1950’s, the prospect of the state taking over more and more of the area of free choice, that I felt I had to write the book.

The book is didactic, the book teaches, preaches, a little too much and I don’t think it’s the job of the artist to do that, the job of the artist is to show.

But the book became popular precisely because it combined the didactic and what seems, to many people, to be the pornographic. Pornography and violence, and the teachy, preachy quality; and when you get these two together you normally produce a book that can become a bestseller.

The book didn’t become a bestseller, not for many, many years, but inevitably it has become my most popular book and this I resent. Out of the thirty odd books I have written this is often the only book of mine which is known, this I resent very much.


Last Updated on Saturday, 29 January 2011 18:44
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