Ninety-Nine Novels: Heartland by Wilson Harris
In 1984, Anthony Burgess published Ninety-Nine Novels, a selection of his favourite novels in English since 1939. The list is typically idiosyncratic, and shows the breadth of Burgess’s interest in fiction. This podcast, by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, explores the novels on Burgess’s list with the help of writers, critics and other special guests.
In this episode, Graham Foster of the Burgess Foundation talks to writer and academic Michael Mitchell about Heartland by Sir Wilson Harris.
Published in 1964, Heartland is a complex and experimental novel set in the rainforests of Guyana. The story follows Zachariah Stevenson as he ventures beyond the treeline and succumbs to madness. Harris’s writing is as dense as the forest it describes and the novel blends poetry and prose as Stevenson begins to question the boundaries between the living and the dead.
Michael Mitchell is a lecturer at the University of Paderborn in Germany, and an Honorary Fellow at the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick. He has written extensively on postcolonial literature, especially the works of Sir Wilson Harris. He has recently written introductions to the Wilson Harris novels Ascent to Omai, The Eye of the Scarecrow, and Heartland, all published by Peepal Tree Press.
Books mentioned in this episode:
By Sir Wilson Harris:
- The Palace of the Peacock (1960)
- The Black Marsden: A Tabula Rasa Comedy (1972)
- Companions of the Day and Night (1975)
- Jonestown (1996)
- The Dark Jester (2001)
- The Mask of the Beggar (2003)
- The Ghost of Memory (2006)
- The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
- The Secret of the Golden Flower by Lü Dongbin (trans. by Richard Wilhem, 1929)
- Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot (1941)
- Watt by Samuel Beckett (1953)
- My Bones and My Flute by Edgar Mittelholzer (1955)
- Wilson Harris: A Philosophical Approach by C.L.R. James (1965)
- Darkness Visible by William Golding (1979)
- Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (1980)
- Decolonising the Mind by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1986)
- The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin (1992)
- Remembering Babylon by David Malouf (1993)
- Our Lady of Demerara by David Dabydeen (2004)
- The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim by Marcia Douglas (2016)
- Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (2019)
You can join the conversation and tell us which 100th book you would add to Burgess’s list by using the hashtag #99Novels on Twitter.
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The theme music for the Ninety-Nine Novels podcast is Anthony Burgess’s Concerto for Flute, Strings and Piano in D Minor, performed by No Dice Collective.