- Format: Hardcover
- ISBN: 978-1-5261-2203-2
- Pages: 256
- Price: £20.00
- Published Date: July 2017
- Series: The Irwell Edition of the Works of Anthony Burgess
A Vision of Battlements is the first novel by the writer and composer Anthony Burgess, who was born in Manchester in 1917. Set in Gibraltar during the Second World War, the book follows the fortunes of Richard Ennis, an army sergeant and incipient composer who dreams of composing great music and building a new cultural world after the end of the war. Following the example of his literary hero, James Joyce, Burgess takes the structure of his book from Virgil's Aeneid. The result is, like Joyce's Ulysses, a comic rewriting of a classical epic, whose critique of the Army and the postwar settlement is sharp and assured.
The Irwell Edition is the first publication of Burgess's forgotten masterpiece since 1965. This new edition includes an introduction and notes by Andrew Biswell, author of a prize-winning biography of Anthony Burgess.
'A Vision of Battlements is an enticing potpourri of subjects. His comic touch is irresistible, and a reader is rewarded with a feast of language and wit.'
Geoffrey Aggeler, novelist, critic and the author of Anthony Burgess: The Artist as Novelist
'A Vision of Battlements vividly depicts WWII-era Gibraltar through the eyes of a British soldier strikingly akin to Sergeant Major John Burgess Wilson, as Anthony Burgess was then known. The bittersweet travails of protagonist Richard Ennis, a semi-autobiographical composite of the author and Virgil's Aeneas, imbue this black comedy with poignancy and the literary sophistication that one would expect from an author deeply influenced by James Joyce. Like Burgess, Ennis's great passion is to compose music, but life keeps interfering. As Burgess points out in his introduction to the novel, "Richard Ennis, my composer-hero.means a good deal to me, because he is a failed composer, but readers may see in him an anticipation of a particular type of contemporary hero, or anti-hero." R. Ennis, whose name in reverse spells "sinner", is a passionate yet flawed character whose repeated efforts to elevate his fellow men through education and cultural appreciation are inevitably doomed to failure. Many of the enduring themes that one finds throughout Burgess's fiction are introduced in this early novel: richly drawn characters from all levels of society, class and cultural conflict, ill-fated love affairs, doppelgängers, and, especially, music.'
Paul Phillips 26/02/2017
'A Vision of Battlements is a key book in the Anthony Burgess canon. Although the fifteenth novel he published, it is the first he started writing in the early 1950s. Set in garrison Gibraltar, where Burgess (then Sergeant John B. Wilson of the Army Education Corps) served from 1943 to 1946, it is therefore one of his end-of-empire books, like the Malayan trilogy and Devil of a State, accurately depicting the Rock at a historic moment of change. The novel is Joycean in its packed language ('salty knouts of broken sea lunged and sloggered') and in its mock-heroism, which nods to the Aeneid. The book's hero, R. Ennis, ('sinner' backwards), a semi-lapsed Catholic composer of serious music, is characteristically Burgessian: a libidinous misfit 'of base stock' now happily expatriate, and drinking, smoking, fornicating and mixing with all races and classes. Pelagianism pops up, in the mouth of an American deserter who goes native in Spain, much as the poet Enderby does in Tangier. There is an interesting homosexual theme. It is wonderful to see A Vision of Battlements back in print in Burgess's centenary year, and shorn of the ugly illustrations that marred the 1965 first edition.'
Nicholas Rankin, author of Defending the Rock: how Gibraltar blocked Hitler's path to victory (Faber, 2017)
A Vision of Battlements
1 Textual variants
2 Burgess's introductions, reviews and selection of contemporary responses
Editor and Author
Andrew Biswell is Professor of Modern Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University and Director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation