As for what remains, a dozen years after Burgess's death, and the prospects for his reputation, I kept thinking of some momentous, long-ago explosion, far out to sea, whose debris, even now, continues to wash fitfully up upon the lone, lorn 21st-century sands.D J Taylor reviews Andrew Biswell's The Real Life of Anthony Burgess * in the Independent. It's a book I very much want to read, especially after having read Burgess' own biographies, Little Wilson and Big God and You've Had Your Time.
I am an unashamed lover of Burgess as I've said before. I actually chose to be posted to Kuala Kangsar in the '80's because I'd so enjoyed his trilogy and I guess that I was on my own little mission to try to understand him and the Malaya he painted. The town did not disappoint. It had more than its share of remarkable, eccentric characters. The Ubudiah mosque was still "as bulbous as a clutch of onions" and I became a paid-up bar-propping member of the Iblis (oops, sorry the Idris) Club .
But the school where he taught (MCKK) had completely forgotten him. There wasn't a copy of a single one of his books in the library. No plaque on the wall. I pondered on whether this was the result of an embarrassed silence (although Burgess had been even-handedly rude about all the races including the British in his writing) or genuine ignorance and indifference. Concluded the latter.
And of course there is the perfectly understandable desire to shed whatever remnants of the colonial legacy still persist. Merdeka wasn't struggled for for nothing and it isn't PC to honour a British writer. Never mind that he was arguably one of the most important literary figures of the C20th.
And in a the three and a half years I lived there, I met only one person who had known him personally. (Though years later, reading the autobiography, Abu suddenly recalled his housemaster Mr. Wilson ...).
I found this piece written by Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad recently. It gives, I think another perspective.
* You can win a copy of the new biography in a competition on the Anthony Burgess website.