It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me. - Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers
Burgess's most substantial novel, Earthly Powers, appeared in October. It presents a panorama of the twentieth century as seen by Kenneth Toomey, a gay writer who is asked by the archbishop of Malta to help with the canonisation of the next Pope. The book was very well received and was a favourite to win the Booker Prize for that year. Burgess was bitterly disappointed to miss out to William Golding's Rites of Passage.
I wish people would think of me as a musician who writes novels, instead of a novelist who writes music on the side. – Anthony Burgess
This Man And Music, a musical autobiography, was published. Burgess writes about the dialogue between music and language in his work, and describes the composition of his Symphony in C as well as exploring music in the work of James Joyce and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
The End Of The World News is published, a complicated interweaving of three largely unrelated projects: an imagined visit by Leon Trotsky to New York (presented as an opera libretto), a fictional rendering of the life of Sigmund Freud, and the impending destruction of Earth by a large meteor.
In the centenary year of James Joyce's birth, Burgess's musical version of Ulysses was broadcast twice on the radio. Called Blooms Of Dublin, it is a full-scale orchestral work with songs influenced by the music hall. Bawdy, extravagant and hugely ambitious, it has never received a stage presentation.
Burgess published The Kingdom Of The Wicked, an epic novelisation of the birth of Christianity written during the preparation of a screenplay for his television series A.D., starring Susan Sarandon, Ava Gardner and Anthony Andrews as Nero, among many others. It is the third of his literary works based on the Bible, the others being the narrative poem Moses and the novel Man of Nazareth.
A critical study appeared of D.H. Lawrence, called Flame Into Being. Burgess claimed an affinity with Lawrence: 'I wake up with surprise to find myself in the situation that Lawrence chose in his youth - namely, that of a British writer in exile (married, incidentally, to a foreign aristocrat), who feels more at home by the Mediterranean than by the Thames or the Irwell, using foreign languages more than English in daily discourse, trying to hear English and see the English more clearly for not living with them. Voluntary expatriation never goes down well ... the novelist who lives abroad is trying to evade taxation or bad weather (in fact he evades neither). What he is really trying to do is get out of the narrow cage which inhibits the British novel, to acquire a continental point of view, to avoid writing about failed love affairs in Hampstead.'
Oberon Old and New, a libretto for Carl Maria von Weber's last opera Oberon (1826). The libretto was commissioned by Scottish Opera, and first used in Glasgow on 23 October 1985. The music critic Lynne Walker wrote following a restaging of Weber's work by Scottish Opera in 2004:
'Perhaps not surprisingly, Scottish Opera has not volunteered to revive its 1985 production of Oberon at Edinburgh. This version was commissioned from the novelist Anthony Burgess, who not only replaced the archaic expressions and ersatz Shakespeare of Planché's original, but also updated the story to involve hijackers and hostages in a futuristic Middle East. A staging that parked an aeroplane on the roof of Glasgow's Theatre Royal on the opening night only seemed to sink the already preposterous plot further into the mire, although Burgess was so taken with the music that he went on to arrange the overture to Oberon for guitar quartet.'
Burgess published Homage to Qwert Yuiop, a large collection of his journalism.
'As every hammerer at a typewriter knows, QWERTYUIOP is the blazon on the second bank of the keyboard from the top. I have earned my living from the typewriter for the last twenty-five years, and I have developed an affection for the instrument analogous to my love for my old Gaveau piano ... Without Qwert Yuiop's willingness to submit to my punishing fingers I doubt if I could have sustained the profession of author.'
The Pianoplayers, a novel that draws heavily on Burgess's memories of his father, a pub and silent film pianist, was published. In 1975 Burgess had accompanied a screening of Fritz Lang's film Metropolis on the piano as his father had done fifty years before.
Carmen: An Opera In Four Acts was published. Burgess's translation of Bizet's opera was performed at the Coliseum by English National Opera in the same year.
Little Wilson and Big God: Being The First Part Of The Confessions of Anthony Burgess, the first volume of his autobiography, was published in February. It contains some of Burgess's best fictional and non-fictional writing.
Burgess won the Portico Prize in Manchester, for his novel Any Old Iron, which is partly set in the city (as well as in Wales and Leningrad). A sprawling update of the Excalibur legend, it is one of the most ambitious of Burgess's later novels. He said of it, 'I don't think there's any optimism in the book, except the scent of oranges and tangerines at the end.'
The Devil's Mode, Burgess's only published collection of short stories, appeared in November. It features a characteristically wide range of characters, including Shakespeare, Debussy, Sherlock Holmes and Attila the Hun.
Burgess wrote the preface to The Book Of Tea, a lavishly illustrated coffee, or rather tea-table book. 'More tea is drunk worldwide than any other beverage except water,' he claimed, '…leaving its mark on every civilization. Perhaps no other beverage has been the object of such sanctification and ceremony.' In an Evening Standard interview in the same year, he remarked that his own preference was for 'stepmother's tea' (as F.X. Enderby calls it) drunk from a pint-mug and made with 'no fewer than five Twinings Irish Breakfast teabags'.