Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(25) Politics and Religion in Post-war British Novel.

(G. Orwell, G. Greene, A. Burgess, and M. Spark).


T h e  T w e n t i e t h  C e n t u r y

[see "Background for Topics 12-27..."]


G e o r g e  O r w e l l

[see O. under ‘22 Colonial Experience’]


G r a h a m  G r e e n e

[see G. under ‘22 Colonial Experience’]


A n t h o n y  B u r g e s s  ( 1 9 1 7 – 9 3 )

L i f e :

- b. John Burgess Wilson to a Cath. mother and a Protestant father, on his confirmation received the name Anthony

- lapsed formally from Cath. as a teenager x but: did not break with the Church completely

- received uni education in E language and lit.

- served as a teacher in the Br. colonial service in Malaysia and Brunei [= the island of Borneo]

- learnt the Malay language, and also spoke: Rus., Fr., Sp., Ita., Ger., and Welsh

W o r k :

- versatile and extremely prolific: novelist, poet, playwright, lit. critic, scriptwriter, journalist, essayist, travel writer, composer, librettist, broadcaster, transl., and educationalist


(a) lit. critical studies of W. Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961), J. Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, & oth.

(b) treatises on linguistics


- his central theme: theology and sociology of sin

The Long Day Wanes = ‘The Malayan Trilogy’ (1956 – 59):

= his 1st publ. fictional work

- a single-vol. publ. of the orig. trilogy on the dying days of Br.’s empire in the East

<=> oth. Eastern fictional explorations:

(a) R. Kipling x J. Conrad

(b) G. Orwell’s Burma in Burmese Days

(c) E. M. Forster’s Ind. in A Passage to India

(d) G. Greene’s Vietnam in The Quiet American

- unlike J. Conrad and G. Greene x but: like R. Kipling and G. Orwell learnt the local language

- his linguistic command results in an impressive verisimilitude and understanding of indigenous conc. in the trilogy

The Wanting Seed (1962):

= a futuristic fantasy

- the cyclical process of human moral history:

(a) ‘Gusphases’ = Augustian ages: the concept of Original Sin paramount

(b) ‘Interphases’

(c) ‘Pelaphases’ = Pelagian ages: the triumph of liberal humanism

A Clockwork Orange (1962):

= a dystopian vision of the technological future, his most brilliant and experimental novel

- a cult exploration of the nature of evil

- from the POV of the London delinquent Alex (15): fantasises about rape, assault, and murder while listening to Mozart

- distinct challenges to the reader:

(a) A. brainwashed into conformity => questions the almost sentimental ideals of freedom and social responsibility on the background of the liberal 1960s

(b) A. rendered sympathetic => his geniality and vitality x the society’s numbness and soullessness produces A.’s reaction

- lexical rebellion: A. uses ‘nadsat’ = a Rus.-rooted argot, abbreviated, aggressive, rich, and strange

<=> suggests sth of J. Joyce’s linguistic ingenuity

<=> uses Rus. possibly as a reaction to the danger of Communism

> Stanley Kubrick’s (1928 – 99, an Am. film director and producer) film

Earthly Powers (1980):

= a panoramic Tolstoyan saga of the 20th c.

- an entertaining exploration of moral antinomy

- an autobiog. narrator = a Cath., homosexual, and successful writer

- knows the power of pop. story-telling, loves effects and ‘cunning’

- travels the 5 continents:

(a) gets acquainted with Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945), Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945, in office 1922 – 43; an It. PM and creator of the Fascist state), ‘and the rest of the terrible people this terrible century’s thrown up’

(b) befriends J. Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, R. Kipling, and Wyndham Lewis (1882 – 1957; a Br. painter, writer, and co-founder of the ‘Vorticism’)

(c) finds himself the brother-in-law of a saintly and fictional Pope

(d) x but: does not seek the status of a colossus himself

Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare’s Love Life (1964):

= the classic speculative recreation of W. Shakespeare’s love-life and the sources of his imaginative vision

Napoleon Symphony (1974):

= an ambitious modernist fictional expedition

- shapes the novel’s structure on the 4 movements of Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770 – 1827, a Ger. composer and pianist) Eroica Symphony (1804; = Ita. for Heroic)

- the title: from the symphony above mentioned, orig. dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte

- incl. a superb portrait of an Arab and Muslim society occupied by a Christian western power (= Egypt occupied by a Cath. Fr.)

Abba Abba (1977):

- about the last months in the life of J. Keats

- the title: to become his epitaph on the marble memorial stone behind which the vessel with his remains is kept

“The Enderby Tetralogy” (1963 – 84):

= a cycle of comic novels

- about a reclusive minor poet struggling with his muse


M u r i e l  S p a r k  ( b . 1 9 1 8 )

L i f e :

- of Jewish descent, Scott. birth, and Cath. religion (a convert)

W o r k :

(a) the theological problem of evil

(b) moral issues in relation to fictional form

(c) => the narrative problems of self-consciously lit. texts

N o n - f i c t i o n :

Child of Light (1951):

= a critical study of Mary Shelley’s work

- significant of her own future career as a Gothic novelist

- continues the Scott. tradition of R. Burns, James Hogg (1770 – 1835, a Scott. writer), and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 94, a Scott. writer) x but: also shifts the Gothic form into new directions

Curriculum Vitae (1992):

= her autobiog.

- suggests her intention to explore the potential of light to dispel darkness and illuminate the thoughts, motives, and sins dwelling there

F i c t i o n :

The Comforters (1957):

- the protagonist = a neurotic woman writer

- has to come to terms with her new-found Cath., her hallucinations, and her God-like status of a creator

- works on a study of contemp. fiction entitled Form in the Modern Novel

- intents to write a novel about writing a novel

Memento Mori (1959):

= a wry, blunt, and provocatively funny narrative

- the characters = a diverse group of London geriatrics

- receive anonym. phone calls to remind them of their impending deaths

- concl.: one of the characters, paralysed by a stroke, recalls the causes of his friends’ mortal sicknesses

- the 3rd person narrator breaks his litany and turns on the reader with the words of a children’s catechism

The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960) and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961):

= Gothic novels of a distinctively comic chill

- conc.: possession

ad The Ballad of Peckham Rye:

- conc.: the necromancy in a London suburb in the 1950s

ad The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie:

- conc.: the exercise of psychological power in a girls’ school in the 1930s

- Miss Brodie’s superbly poised and precisely defined moral sway over her favourite pupils:

(a) compared to God by one her pupils

(b) compared to Mussolini by the narrator

(c) => emphasises her fondness for pointing out the common Lat. root of the words ‘educate’ and ‘Duce’

The Driver’s Seat (1970):

= a carefully ordered present-tense Gothic narrative

- contrasts the aberrance of what happens x its cool and precise delineation by the narrator’s dispassionate, sometimes ironic, and sometimes disingenuous tone

- the protagonist = a woman with a death-wish, plots the circumstances of her own violent murder

- challenges ideas of authorial authority and control

Not to Disturb (1971):

= a Gothic novel in the traditional sense of term x The Abbess of Crewe

The Abbess of Crewe (1974):

= a non-traditional Gothic novel

- completely avoids the excessive interest in the sexuality traditionally inspirational to earlier Gothic novelists

- set in an ‘upper-crust’ E convent

- the Abbess rules the convent and uses all the technological and propagandist skills of the 20th c. to manipulate her sisters to suit her ends

- finds interest in secular lit., incl. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527, an Ita. Political philosopher), and a wide range of poetry: believes ‘all good art needs not be plausible, only hypnotic’

- an artist herself, gives orders ‘for the selection…of the transcripts of her tape-recording’ and incl. at certain points the explanatory instruction ‘Poetry deleted’

= a more elegant x but: no less politic than the orig. Richard Nixon’s (1913 – 94, in office 1969 – 74; a US President to resign as a result of the ‘Watergate Scandal’) phrase: ‘Expletive deleted’

- [‘Expletive deleted’ = an ironic expression to indicate a profanity has been omitted, orig. in connection with N.’s internal tapes made public after the ‘Watergate’]


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Other Sources

Práger, Libor. Semináře: Britská literatura 2. ZS 2004/05.


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