Burgess Memories: Bruce Arnold
I knew Anthony Burgess best during an intense seminar in Monte Carlo. In 1990, at the height of the Gabler-Kidd-Stephen Joyce controversy over the new Gabler text, Burgess had decided views which evolved and changed during the course of the deliberations. I was instrumental in bringing out that change and in recording his intelligent and wise comments made during the many meetings.
I was there to film the event, invited by George Sandulescu, a Romanian Joyce scholar who wanted publicity for the Princess Grace Library, and for Monaco, as a venue for conferences. I agreed to go and film the event. I had my own agenda. I was then working on a book, The Scandal of Ulysses, and wanted to meet with many people at the conference, and of course with Anthony Burgess, a well-known Joycean with an independent view of the heated controversy going on that time.
It was the only film, of several that I made, that was reasonably generously funded. This was because I had done an important favour to Michael Smurfit, rescuing him from an unfortunate purchase of a painting that was not what it was advertised to be. He gave me backing for the film. Indeed, what began as one film, called The Scandal of Ulysses, grew into two films, the second called Images of James Joyce. I own the copyright in them and I think that copyright has been more or less protected. Anthony Burgess features in three or four appearances, speaking rather well and, to his credit, being truthful and objective in what was turning into a James Joyce nightmare.
I came to like Burgess and I think he placed trust in what I was doing. We had nice occasions and both he and I were treated as celebrities, like being introduced to Princess Caroline and her brother! But the job ended and I did not meet with Anthony again.
I was literary editor of the Irish Independent and we reviewed his later books. My own, about Ulysses, was revised and republished a couple of times. There are useful Anthony Burgess footnotes. I met the Joyce scholars occasionally as, one by one, they fell off the twig. I am pleased to be still among the living.
Though the part he played in the two films was limited it happened to be accurate and compelling in the climate that then prevailed. I am jealous of my copyright and try to guard it against the predators who have had the crime of theft made easy for them by the panoply of electronic devices. But that’s another story.
I should add further, prompted by my daughter, that he came to dinner in my house when she was studying at Trinity College and we had a noisy and amusing evening. I had forgotten. She dates it around 1989-90 from memory. This would almost certainly have been a Joycean occasion though minus Stephen James Joyce!
Bruce Arnold is an editor, journalist and author. He has published twenty-three books, including four novels. Among his many journalistic positions he has worked as literary editor for the Irish independent, and is currently a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin.