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Many of Anthony Burgess’s experiences ran parallel to those of JB Priestley, the Bradford-born novelist, playwright and broadcaster. Both northern writers, they infiltrated the literary establishment and went on to prolific success as novelists. Both men also had a love of music, which is reflected in their work, and both men had political views that betrayed a suspicion of the Westminster establishment (though they had different ways of expressing this). Most notably, Burgess decided to visit Leningrad in 1961, a trip that would have a large impact on his work. Priestley had previously visited the city in 1945 when his play An Inspector Calls premiered at the Leningrad Theatre Company. Priestley’s enthusiasm for Russian culture matched Burgess’s and both men had an affection for the Russian people. Burgess admired Priestley’s work, and admits to ‘at least trying to match Jack Priestley in prolificity’.
The following piece, originally written for The Observer in 1984, reveals Burgess’s great affection for Priestley and his work.
For more information on the Observer/Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism, click here.