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This review is taken from PN Review 151, Volume 29 Number 5, May - June 2003.

BURGESS OATH TO POETRY ANTHONY BURGESS, Revolutionary Sonnets and Other Poems, edited by Kevin Jackson (Carcanet) £9.95

Having killed the poet F.X. Enderby in one novel, Anthony Burgess proceeded to write Enderby's Dark Lady or No End to Enderby (1984) in which the poet is alive again. In the prefatory note to that novella Burgess expounds the view that `fictional characters, though they sometimes may have to die, are curiously immune to death'. Enderby, Burgess explains, was born of a delirious bout of sandfly fever in North Borneo in early 1959, when, Burgess writes in the same prefatory note, `I opened the door of the bathroom in my bungalow and was not altogether surprised to see a middle-aged man seated on the toilet writing what appeared to be poetry. The febrile vision lasted less than a second, but the impossible personage stayed with me, and demanded the writing of a novel about him.' Further on Burgess gives a telling summation of his alter-ego poet, when he writes;

A reviewer in Punch said, of the first novel or half-novel, `It would be helpful if Mr Burgess could indicate somewhere whether these poems are meant to be good or bad,' a fine instance of critical paralysis. T.S. Eliot liked at least three of the poems, but posterity is beginning to find his taste unsure, especially since he too, like Enderby, became the librettist for a Broadway musical. I have no opinion about either Enderby's poems or Enderby himself. I do not know whether I like or dislike him; I only know that, for me, he ...


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