John Anthony Burgess Wilson, also known as Joseph Kell or John Burgess Wilson, was born on February 25, 1917, in a suburb of Manchester in a Catholic family. His mother died when he was one year old, so he was raised by his aunt and later, by his father and a stepmother.
During 1937-1940 Anthony Burgess studied English literature at the Victoria University of Manchester. He wanted to explore music, but he wasn’t enrolled in music faculty because of his poor grades in physics. He dedicated himself to teaching until 1954 and from that date, he was an official teacher of British Colonial Service in Malaya and Brunei until 1959, the year he returned to Great Britain; it was then that he began his literary career.
In his first novel “A Vision of Battlements,” written in 1949, but not published until 1965, Burgess evokes memories of his military service in Gibraltar during World War II. The play presents satiric and comic aspects of battles while reflecting the plot and stylistic influences of James Joyce.
Between the years 1956-59, Anthony Burgess published his Malayan Trilogy “The Long Day Wanes,” which recounts experiences of his years in Malaysia as a colonial official, during the last phase of the British Colonial presence. The works that make up this trilogy are “Time for a Tiger” (1956), “The Enemy in the Blanket” (1958) and “Beds in the East” (1959), which make up an ingenious, inventive and melancholic narrative about the liquidation of the British Empire in Southeast Asian territories. It was followed by “The Right to an Answer” (1960), one of the funniest works of Burgess, where a profound criticism is made of the loss of traditional values within the framework of a consumer society, and “Devil of a State” (1961).
In 1962 he published his most famous novel, “A Clockwork Orange,” adapted in the cinema with great success by the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick in 1971. In this work, Burgess highlights a negative utopia, a world dominated by individual and collective violence. In the same year “The Wanting Seed” was published, in which Burgess presents another pessimistic vision of the future: the problem of population growth. In these two novels, Burgess shows the difficulties of a metaphysical, ethical and ideological human nature.
In 1963, Burgess published the first volume of Enderby quartet “Inside Mr. Enderby,” and in 1968, the “Enderby by Outside.” These volumes were inspired by environments characteristic of James Joyce's novels. The “M/F” published in 1971 (the third volume of Enderby quartet), is the work that derives from the anthropological studies of Lévi-Strauss and that is written with the use of the game of words, riddles and several languages. In 1974, Anthony Burgess published “Napoleon Symphony: A Novel in Four Movements,” a complicated novel about the life and world of Napoleon. In the same year, the author published “The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End,” the third Volume of the Enderby quartet.
After it, he wrote, “Earthly Powers” (1980), a novel of accusation and warning. Then, in 1984, the fourth volume of Enderby quartet “Enderby's Dark Lady, or No End of Enderby” was published. In 1985 - “The Kingdom of the Wicked,” in 1986 - “The Pianoplayers.”
The following year, 1987, the first volume of his autobiography appeared: “Little Wilson and Big God.” He is also the author of very personal biographical studies on archetypes and cultural models, such as Shakespeare (“Nothing Like the Sun”, 1970), James Joyce “Here Comes Everybody” (1965) and Joysprick: An Introduction to the Language of James Joyce” (1972), both on Joyce, and “Ernest Hemingway and His World” (1978). Between his last works, it is also necessary to remember the second volume of his autobiography: “You've Had Your Time” (1990).
The author died on November 22, 1993, in London from lung cancer and was buried in Monaco’s cemetery.
The author of children's books, poetry, essays, biographies and numerous novels, Burgess is a figure of prominence in the world of Anglo-Saxon literature, either because of the diversity of his interests or because of the volume of his work, all of which are impregnated with an autobiographical vein. Perhaps the most original elements of his writing have to be sought in his individual capacity to transform his living heritage in narrative material forged with a unique language.