When a well-known writer dies, there ensues either a period of mourning and exaggerated praise (see: Leigh Fermor, P.), or a silence like that which follows an outburst from the dock. Typically, this silence is a probationary interlude before the sentence of utter obscurity (see: Mailer, N.). Frequently, the silence is broken, and the jury fixed, by whispers of political and marital malfeasance (see: Bellow, S.). When the political deviation is considered especially offensive to decency, the whispering begins while the writer is still alive, in the way of dismemberments for treason (see: Naipaul, V.; Steiner, G.).

The birth of Anthony Burgess was one of the lesser upheavals of 1917. His death in 1993 inspired the critical equivalent of last orders, a cocktail of hurried tributes and foreshortened arguments. In The New York Times, Herbert Mitgang called...


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