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Anthony Burgess: The Clockwork Testament

I don’t know whether the title was conceived by some marketing person to make you think that this novel is somehow connected to A Clockwork Orange. However, it isn’t but it is rather the third novel in the Enderby series. Specifically it describes the events on the last day of Enderby’s life and I am giving away nothing in telling you this as Enderby has at least two faux heart attacks before the final killer. And a very eventful final day it is.

When we last left Enderby, he had recently inherited a bar in Tangier from his one time nemesis, Rawcliffe. In a flashback, we learn that an American film director had come to the bar and intimated he wanted to make a film about a shipwreck. The learned Enderby had suggested Gerard Manley HopkinsThe Wreck of the Deutschland which, of course, no-one else had heard of but, as it was out of copyright, they were willing to pay Enderby a paltry sum to write a treatment. It became a successful film (though bearing little resemblance to Hopkins’ poem, with lots of sex and nudity) and, on the strength of it, Enderby is offered a visiting professorship at a university in New York.

Much of the book is taken up with Burgess viciously satirizing everything American, from their philistinism to their political correctness (Enderby is anything but), from their hypocrisy, particularly but by no means exclusively as related to sexual matters, to their food, their talk shows, their health fads and so on. Enderby falls afoul of much of this and ends up being attacked (sometimes physically) by prudes, the politically correct, women who want to fuck their way to an A grade and all manner of other American phenomena. He saves an old lady and a nun from attack on the subway, goes on a talk show, writes poetry, invents an Elizabethan playwright for one of his classes and generally shows he is even more out of place in New York than he is in England. No matter. It is all great fun and Burgess is clearly enjoying himself and so should you, unless, of course, you are American, politically correct, black, a lesbian, a prude, a Christian, a student, an academic or any other of Burgess’ targets.

Publishing history

First published 1974 by Hart-Davis, MacGibbon