Literary outsider dies after prolific life

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ANTHONY BURGESS has died in a London hospital after a long illness, it was announced yesterday, writes Kevin Jackson. He was 76.

Though best known as the author of A Clockwork Orange, he wrote more than 50 books. His output included plays, translations, biographies, film scripts, critical works on music and literature and studies in linguistics. Burgess was also a prolific journalist in several European languages and a composer.

Even if critics hinted that he could wear his vast learning rather too conspicuously at times, Burgess was free from cultural snobbery, and was one of the very few post-war writers to combine high literary ambition with broad popular appeal. His novels, often comic, experimented with language - A Clockwork Orange is written in 'Nadsat', a teenage argot based on Russian.

Burgess's writing was always clear, from the most complex fictional flights to his most hurried journalism. He once described himself as a medieval figure adrift in an electronic age; his main concerns were deeply unfashionable: traditional moral questions of Catholic theology - free will, original sin - and the hard task of making art from the often debased medium of language.

Burgess was born into a working-class Catholic family in Manchester in 1917, and baptised John Anthony Wilson; the main pseudonym he adopted for his fiction was his mother's maiden name. He studied English at Manchester University and saw war service in the Army. From 1954 to 1960 he worked in Malaya and Borneo as an education officer in the Colonial Service, which provided subject matter for his early fiction. Until his early forties, most of his creative energies were devoted to composing.

At the age of 43, he was invalided back to Britain and told he was suffering from a brain tumour, with only a year to live. In that 'pseudo-terminal' 12 months, he wrote five novels.

Burgess continued to write with the energy and concentration of a condemned man, and was soon established as one of Britain's leading writers.

Like his literary master James Joyce, he spent most of his life in self-imposed exile, in Rome, Switzerland and Monaco, with his second wife, Liliana Macellari. He felt he was outside the literary establishment and was treated with much greater respect in Europe.

Obituary, page 16

(Photograph omitted)