I was very excited by the news that artist Stephen Sutcliffe and director Graham Eatough had made a film based on the first and last chapters of the Enderby novels by my literary hero Anthony Burgess.
The film, commissioned by the Whitworth at the University Of Manchester and made in partnership with international arts agency Lux, was presented in 2017, the author’s centenary.
The shambolic yet heroic F.X. Enderby was Burgess’s anti-hero and alter-ego, introduced in the 1963 novel Inside Mr Enderby, which was published under the pseudonym Joseph Kell.
The author (born John Anthony Burgess Wilson) reviewed the novel for the Yorkshire Post under the newly adopted Anthony Burgess moniker thus:
This is, in many ways, a dirty book. It is full of bowel-blasts and flatulent borborygms, emetic meals (‘thin but over-savoury stews’, Enderby calls them) and halitosis. It may well make some people sick, and those with tender stomachs are advised to let it alone. It turns sex, religion, the State into a series of laughing-stocks. The book itself is a laughing-stock.
Burgess was dismissed by the regional newspaper when it was revealed that he had also reviewed his first Kell novel (One Hand Clapping) and went on of course to conduct an illustrious career (though not laden with honour by his own country). His prolific output included three more books featuring the character, culminating in Enderby’s Dark Lady Or No End To Enderby.
Sutcliffe – who included the work ‘A.B…’ in his exhibition Going Over at London’s Rob Tufnell Gallery this spring – and Eatough were awarded £40,000, supported by the Sfumato Foundation, to facilitate the production of the two-part film that explores the cultural figure of ‘the artist’ and ideas of authenticity and posterity through theatrical performances and film collage.
As Tufnell notes, Burgess’ connection to the Whitworth, recalled in the first volume of his biography, is that as a child he was ejected from the gallery for “sucking on the marble breast of a Greek goddess”.
The film was shown as part of Manchester’s calendar of celebrations of Burgess’s life. This included exhibitions, plays, performances of his music and the publication of new editions of novels, poetry and journalism.
The first film, Inside Mr Enderby, tells the story of a school trip from the future to visit the fictional poet Enderby in his 1960s bedsit and offers a darkly comic study of the stark reality of a living, struggling artist compared to the stale posterity of the set-text poet. The second film, The Muse, follows Paley, a young literary historian of the future, who travels to a parallel universe in order to meet Shakespeare and establish if, and how, he wrote all the plays attributed to him.
Visit Graham Eatough’s website here.
Visit the International Anthony Burgess Foundation’s site here.
If you don’t have them already, I recommend you acquire Burgess’s indispensable memoirs Little Wilson And Big God and You’ve Had Your Time.