Stanley Kubrick's film version of A Clockwork Orange opened in the US on 1 December, and would open in the UK in January 1972. Burgess admired Kubrick's work, though worried that the presentation of violence went too far (even while the content of the book itself is in many ways more shocking). 'I realised, not for the first time, how little impact even a shocking book can make in comparison with a film. Kubrick's achievement swallowed mine whole, and yes I was responsible for what some called its malign influence on the young.' (You've Had Your Time, 1990)
M/F, a difficult novel about structuralism, incest and a detective story based on the thinking of Claude Levi-Strauss, was published in June. Burgess later described it as 'the toughest I ever had to write, and, of all those that I have written, it is the one that displeases me the least. The critics ... were mostly contemptuous.'
Burgess and Kubrick corresponded for some time about a possible film on the life of Napoleon. Though there was initially a possibility that they might collaborate, it quickly became clear that they had different ideas about the project and the idea stalled. Burgess's work on Napoleon eventually emerged as Napoleon Symphony in 1974, while Kubrick's film was never made.
Napoleon Symphony was published, a novel based on Burgess's work with Stanley Kubrick on a potential film about Napoleon. It is a complex and allusive text that reworks the facts of Napoleon's life into a narrative based on the structure of Beethoven's Eroica, and is the most Joycean of Burgess's novels. It was not well-received by critics.
The Clockwork Testament, a third Enderby novel, appeared. In parts it operates as a kind-of sequel to A Clockwork Orange, or at least a sequel to Burgess's skirmishes with the media following the appearance of Kubrick's film in 1971. In the novel Enderby is accused of inciting violence against nuns because of a film version of one of his books, just as Burgess had been, and is forced to defend the moral basis of his work in a hostile television studio.
Symphony No. 3 in C by Burgess was performed by the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra in Iowa City. Burgess said of the performance: 'I had written over 30 books, but this was the truly great artistic moment ... Composing this symphony, I was not earning a living, but I was fulfilling an aspect of myself that had been too long dumb. It was a relief to be dealing in pure sound and pure structure, far from the fury and the mire of human veins.'
Moses, an epic narrative poem telling the Biblical story, was published; Burgess was later to rework this as a screenplay for a TV series called Moses The Lawgiver, starring Burt Lancaster. Burgess says of the book that its motivation is that he is 'convinced that our salvation lies in understanding ourselves, [and] that such understanding depends on a concern with language.'
A book for children called A Long Trip To Teatime, illustrated by Fulvio Testa, was published. It is a complex story with many linguistic jokes, and its unsuitability for a younger audience was tacitly acknowledged by the book jacket: 'Ostensibly for children, the narrative of this remarkable book has been made up out of a section of an encyclopaedia - the alphabet provides the plot.'
Beard's Roman Women, a novel drawing on Burgess's own experience of bereavement, was published. Ronald Beard struggles to make sense of the women in his life - his possibly dead wife Leonora, and a living and exotic photographer called Paola - as they pursue him through a dream-like vision of Rome. Illustrated with photographs by David Robinson, this remains one of Burgess's most moving and comic novels.
Burgess completed a script for the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me in May. Cubby Broccoli turned it down, though Burgess claimed that the finished film retained his idea for a floating seaborne lair for the villain. Burgess's plot begins with Bond 'fighting a Chinese musical gong society and drowning one of its thugs in a tub of shark's fin soup, seasoning it with soy sauce', and develops into a story about motiveless terrorists 'committed to blowing up the Sydney Opera House on a gala occasion at which the Queen and all the leaders of the British Commonwealth will be present. The alternative is for the American President to disport himself obscenely on international television ... I do not think I have to continue.' (You've Had Your Time, 1990)
Abba Abba was published, a novel about the last months of John Keats and including translations of the blasphemous sonnets of the Italian poet Belli. One of the sonnets is below:
When Christ rose up, those somewhat timid gentry
His friends kicked up a noise, but one apostle
- St Thomas - sang as loud as any throstle:
'It's an imposture. Obvious. Elementary.
Anyway, how could he pass the fucking sentry?'
Jesus meanwhile, unseen in the Easter jostle,
Was making for their place at a colossal
Speed, and he used the keyhole for his entry.
He cried: 'Poke in your finger, near this rib,
And you'll soon see whether I still exist
Or the whole tale is just a fucking fib.'
St Thomas came and shoved his great ham fist
Into the hole. He became as glib
A Christian as he'd been a rationalist.
In October Burgess published 1985, a mixture of a critique of 1984 by George Orwell in the form of interviews that Burgess conducts with himself, and a novel about the growing power of trade unions and the rise of Islam as a major cultural and political force in Britain.
A second children's book, again illustrated by the artist Fulvio Testa, was published as The Land Where The Ice Cream Grows. It is a fantasy story about an airship expedition to a land where ice cream grows wild. It was much more successful than Burgess's previous work for children and remains in print in Germany and Japan.
Based on a TV miniseries that Burgess wrote for Franco Zeferelli, Man Of Nazareth is a historical novel that tells the story of the life of Jesus. Unlike in the more conventional television version, Burgess's theology is unorthodox, including a marriage for Jesus to a Jewish girl named Sara, though his narrator is characteristically unreliable.