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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > March 2017 > Unearthly powers

Unearthly powers

His critics accused him of being a mere entertainer with highbrow airs. But Anthony Burgess was one of the most astonishing writers of the 20th century, argues Kevin Jackson
Dance of the intellect: Anthony Burgess
© MICHEL SETBOUN/GAMMA-RAPHO VIA GETTY IMAGES

It is 100 years since the birth of the man who, at his confirmation into the Catholic Church, took the name Anthony, patron saint of lost causes, to become John Anthony Burgess Wilson. Forty years later, the Manchester-born writer began to be known under the name “Anthony Burgess”— created, as he said, by pulling the cracker of his full name at both ends. In the 1970s, he became world famous thanks to the notoriety of Stanley Kubrick’s slick and meretricious film of his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange—an ambiguous triumph for Burgess, since he regarded the book, most of which he had dashed off in three weeks, as a squib.

Burgess was perhaps justified in feeling resentful of the book that made his reputation. His career—and it is very hard to write about him without reaching for superlatives— is of quite astonishing range and diversity. He is much more than a man of one novel.

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In Prospect’s March issue: Sam Tanenhaus, George Magnus and Dahlia Lithwick examine the state of America after Donald Trump’s first couple of weeks. Tanenhaus looks at the situation faced by the American press, Magnus looks at the state of global trade and Lithwick inspects the diminishing right to choice women face over abortion. Anne Perkins explores the rise of Theresa May through the political ranks and David Edmonds looks at how empathy affects our decision making. Also in this issue: Jay Elwes on Trump’s relationship with America’s intelligence agencies, Anita Charlesworth on the state of the NHS and Nick Cohen on what is done in the name of “the people” by politicians