Anthony Burgess’s 1974 novel Napoleon Symphony gets the trade paperback reissue treatment from Norton. Their blurb:
Anthony Burgess draws on his love of music and history in this novel he called “elephantine fun” to write.
A grand and affectionate tragicomic symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte that teases and reweaves Napoleon’s life into a pattern borrowed—in liberty, equality, and fraternity—from Beethoven’s Third “Eroica” Symphony, in this rich, exciting, bawdy, and funny novel Anthony Burgess has pulled out all the stops for a virtuoso performance that is literary, historical, and musical.
Read Anthony Burgess’s essay on James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. From said essay—
In his dream HCE, as we shall now call him, tries to make the whole of history swallow up his guilt for him. His initials are made to stand for the generality of sinful man, and they are expanded into slogans like “Here Comes Everybody” and “Haveth Childers Everywhere”. After all, sexual guilt presupposes a certain creative, or procreative, vitality, and a fall only comes to those who are capable of an erection. The unquenchable vitality appears in “our Human Conger Eel” (despite the “down, wantons, down” of the eel-pie-maker in King Lear); the erector of great structures is seen in “Howth Castle and Environs”. From the point of view of the ultimate dreamer of the dream, though (the author himself), “HCE” has a structural task to perform. As a chemical formula (H2CE3) or as a genuine vocable (“hec” or “ech” or even “Hecech”) it holds the dream down to its hero, is sewn to it like a monogram-HCE: his dream. But HCE has, so deep is his sleep, sunk to a level of dreaming in which he has become a collective being rehearsing the collective guilt of man. Man falls, man rises so that he can fall again; the sequence of falling and rising goes on till doomsday. The record of this, expressed in the lives of great men, in the systems they make and unmake and remake, is what we call history.
In 1972, Burgess could already see the loss of historical perspective that was happening in institutionalized education. I suppose he would consider 2011 a nightmare that no one is even attempting to wake up from. Also, is there anything like this on TV today? Seriously—is conservatism simply the opposite of intellectualism at this point? Could you imagine a leading conservative pundit having a literary author like Burgess on his or her show to actually, like, talk about history (or anything else for that matter)?
We published this list last year under the heading “Ten Excellent Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic Novels That Aren’t Brave New World or 1984“, but what with the Rapture going down and all, why not post it again, this time with links to pieces we’ve written on these novels—
1. Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban
2. Camp Concentration, Thomas Disch
3. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
4. Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood
5. The Hospital Ship, Martin Bax
6. Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
7. VALIS, Philip K. Dick
8. Ronin, Frank Miller
9. Ape and Essence, Aldous Huxley
10. The Road and Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
Old Man Burgess gives the pop music and the rockers and rollers the what-for.