The Top Ten: Books disowned by their authors


John Rentoul
Sunday 19 July 2015 10:31
Burgess called A Clockwork Orange 'a novel I am prepared to repudiate'
Burgess called A Clockwork Orange 'a novel I am prepared to repudiate'

This list was suggested by Della Mirandola, drawing my attention to Jeanette Winterson’s Boating for Beginners, a comedy about a pleasure-boating company owned by someone called Noah (‘I needed money’), and her exercise manual Fit for the Future (‘Again, money, and because I was a fitness freak’).

1. ‘Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’, Ludwig Wittgenstein

His Philosophical Investigations, unfinished on his death in 1951, repudiated much of this 1922 great work. From Tom Freeman.

2. ‘A Clockwork Orange’, Anthony Burgess

Burgess called it “a novel I am prepared to repudiate”.

3. ‘The Aeneid’, Virgil

The author asked his friends to burn it, as, “Perfectionist that he was, he did not feel the epic was up to scratch,” says Alistair Welch.

4. ‘The Name of Action’ and ‘Rumour at Nightfall’, Graham Greene

“Both books” – his second and third – “are of a badness beyond the power of criticism properly to evoke,” he said. From Nick Stanton.

5. ‘Invasion of the Space Invaders’, Martin Amis

Amis has been reluctant to discuss his 1982 video- game guide book ever since.

6. ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’, George Orwell

He said that this and A Clergyman’s Daughter oughtn’t to have been published, “but I was desperate for money”. Thanks to Clive Davis.

7. Anything by Franz Kafka

“He wanted everything burnt when he died, so pick any book,” says Bertha Mason.

8. ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, Ian Fleming

An attempt to caution his readers against making Bond too much of a hero, this “experiment” had “obviously gone very much awry”, Fleming said.

9. ‘Britain Can Be Better’, Labour Party 2015 manifesto

Very funny, David Mills.

10. ‘Unfinished Victory’, Arthur Bryant

“What better time to publish a pro-Nazi history of Germany than January 1940?” asks David Boothroyd.

Next week: Double-barrelled English villages

Coming soon: Soundtracks that outlived their films. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to

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