Anthony Burgess


in this section


After lecturing in Leicestershire during the early part of the year, Burgess was appointed English master at Banbury Grammar School. He wrote entr'acte music for a school production of Midsummer Night's Dream, the play being performed on 7 December. In his CV, Burgess claimed that a study of language written with H.P. Bridges was about to be published as Engelsk Grammatik in Denmark.


Burgess begins teaching at Malay Collage, Kuala Kangsar in September.

'I liked the senior boys whom I taught, and felt that a rapport was growing. They appreciated my pedagogy. They were supposed to study Chaucer in Nevil Coghill's translation, but I had passages from the original cyclostyled and passed around. Medieval English seemed to them closer to Malay, at least in pronounciation, than the braying diphthongal modern instrument of colonial oppression. Not that there was any colonial oppression: the boys liked to believe there was and that coming independence was really liberation from a harsh yoke. ... These young men were delicate of perception, very courteous, and, though active enough at games, lacking in energy and far from robust.' Little Wilson and Big God (1987)


Burgess and Lynne sailed to Malaya on 5 August.

'As we entered a zone of heat more furious than anything I had known in Gibraltar, I felt I was approaching a world I could live in. I sweated and was happy to sweat. Where there ain't no ten commandments and a man can raise a thirst. That summed it up. My repressive Catholic heritage was a very small and eccentric item in the inventory of the world's religions. I would sweat and drink gin pahits and taste the varied sexual resources of the East.' Little Wilson and Big God (1987)


I was christened John Burgess Wilson and confirmed in the name of Anthony ... So I pulled the cracker of my total name and unfolded the paper hat of Anthony Burgess'. Burgess adopted the pseudonym by which he would become known on the publication of Time For A Tiger, published on 8 October.


Enemy In The Blanket was published on 5 February. This was the second novel in Burgess's 'Malayan Trilogy', and he was unhappy with the cover:

'The design on [the] dust-jacket showed a Sikh pulling a white man and woman in a jinrickshaw. I, who had always looked up to publishers, was discovering that they could be as inept as authors. The reviewers would blame me, not the cover-designer, for that blatant display of ignorance.; Little Wilson and Big God (1987)


Beds in the East, the final novel in the Malayan Triology, was published on 5 April. 'I appeared, for the first time. in a BBC radio book programme. I was called 'Mr Burgess' and saw that a new identity has been established.'

The title is taken from Antony and Cleopatra, with Mark Antony addressing Cleopatra in act 2 scene 6:

'The beds i' the east are soft; and thanks to you, / That call'd me timelier than my purpose hither; / For I have gain'd by 't.'


Burgess collapsed while teaching in Brunei and was repatriated. His illness remains unclear: diagnosed in ambiguous terms with a possible brain tumour, at one stage he appears to have believed that he had less than a year to live, though maintained a characteristic level of productivity. His comic novel The Doctor is Sick was completed during this period.