October 23, 2004

The Wanting Seed

Author: Anthony Burgess | First published 1962 | Amazon

The Wanting Seed is a very strange book, chronicling one pass of society from Pelagian encouragement and liberalism to Augustinian punishment and order. The theory of cycles is interesting, and goes well with the choice of Tristram Foxe, a historian, as the main character. The cannibalism and the staged battles are bizarrely horrifying, though the Malthusian problems Burgess saw leading to them seem to be diminishing, if more slowly than is good.

Unfortunately, the writing is frequently painful. I wonder if Burgess kept the Oxford English Dictionary next to him while choosing words. If it was written first person from Tristram's perspective, maybe it would make sense, but here it just comes out strange. I also have a really hard time believing the timeframe of the book, a mere two years. Maybe England is more changeable than I thought?

I don't think Burgess' particular telling of the future is plausible, but the theory of cycles he provides and many of the details of the Pelgian-Augustinian battle are well worth a lot more thought.

Posted by simonstl at October 23, 2004 11:43 PM