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Any Old Iron Paperback – 1 Feb 1990

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Paperback, 1 Feb 1990
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 Feb. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099658305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099658306
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 11.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 754,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anthony Burgess (25th February 1917-22nd November 1993) was one of the UK's leading academics and most respected literary figures. A prolific author, during his writing career Burgess found success as a novelist, critic, composer, playwright, screenwriter, travel writer, essayist, poet and librettist, as well as working as a translator, broadcaster, linguist and educationalist. His fiction includes Nothing Like the Sun, a recreation of Shakespeare's love-life, but he is perhaps most famous for the complex and controversial novel A Clockwork Orange, exploring the nature of evil. Born in Manchester, he spent time living in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in England, until his death in 1993.


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jimbo on 6 Feb. 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Anthony Burgess is an author who has found himself in the unfortunate position of producing an era-defining novel, and finding the rest of his works cruelly under-rated. Any Old Iron received much praise at the time of its publication, yet his name hardly ever appears on lists of great post-war British authors. A Clockwork Orange may be a magnificent novel, yet it is unfair to expect every novel he has written to reach the high standard he set, and reading Any Old Iron demonstrates that Burgess was a great novelist with much to say and that his other works are well worth reading.
Any Old Iron is a novel about culture and how we define ourselves. The plot focuses upon the hunt for the sword of King Arthur, against a backdrop of the Second World War and Anglo-Russian relations. Focussing on the Jones family, the family inter-marry people from different countries (Russia) and religions (Jewish), yet there is still a strong sense of Welsh nation-hood amongst two of the off-spring.
The book has strong elements of Joseph Heller (another brilliant author who could only succeed in having one novel reach widespread attention) in its coverage of the atrocities of war. Main characters keep referring to the "madness of war", and it is interesting to see people both before and during the war, and in their attempts to rebuild their lives after its conclusion. Despite fitting so much into a relatively short space, the book does not feel rushed because it is only a side-plot, yet it is a worthy side-plot that sums up much feeling.
There is much humour to be found in the novel, yet it is the philosophical strands and themes running through the book that makes it a truly memorable novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Kenyon on 20 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
'Any Old Iron' is quite simply the best novel I have ever read. It makes Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' look like a schoolboy essay.

The story of this book is drawn from the real-life encounters and experience of the author and it shows. He has woven his own life into a political thriller featuring ordinary characters you could bump into on the street. The depth of descriptive writing is magnificent. Normally I can read a similar sized book in three or four sittings. With this one I found myself having to pause in order to digest the information divulged. This information is drawn from the actions of the six main characters as the plot unfolds from a Titanic survivor, through the hardships of immigrant labour in the US, to the Second World War and its aftermath of the political upheavals in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

I found the book both humorous and poignant in balanced amounts. The humour is well crafted and subtle. The sadness is ingrained in a record of man's inhumanity to others and sadly corroborated by the history books.

A tremendous read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Philip Spires on 18 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess is a work that almost defies description. The only way to get a sense of its world is to enter it by reading the book. The novel's journey is vast, it's absurdity often hilarious and its dark humour often tinged with a biting perception of the real.

As with many Anthony Burgess novels, the start is staggering. The first hundred pages - as is usual for Anthony Burgess - race past at a hilarious pace. Reginald Morrow Jones - inevitably Vegetable Marrow Jones to his friends - is a Welshman. Enough said... So was King Arthur. What links them? Precious little until you have read the book and then, perhaps, quite a lot less.

But then, as ever with this author, after the initial headlong spurt the pace seems to fall away. It could come as a relief to many readers, since being dragged along at the rate of the opening could easily exhaust. There is, of course, the necessity to develop the characters and their predicaments. Anthony Burgess does this by viewing their lives from different perspectives. This works in part, but the overall similarity of style tends to blur this use of different points of view.

Merely listing the scenarios in which the characters find themselves raises the breathing rate. Anthony Burgess does not need to reinvent history so that his characters may live through it. So, in Any Old Iron, we have a Titanic survivor, Russians in New York with a restaurant business and a sex-starved daughter who seems to like the new cook. After a visit to the First World War, there's an escapade or two on the streets of St Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad eventually - take your pick - as the Russian revolution unfolds. We participate. This is a long way from Wales, about twenty pages or so. Somehow we find ourselves in Manchester.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JohnEurope on 8 July 2011
Format: Paperback
One of those novels you just have to read. Titanic, Russian Revolution, First World War, Second World War, Welsh Nationalism it just goes on and even more interestingly on. Lots to think about and amusing too. Do try "Any Old Iron", its worth it.
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By J.K. Currie VINE VOICE on 23 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is one of Anthony Burgess' last novels and certainly not his best remembered. Highly praised when it was first published, it remains an exuberant, perhaps rather overdone tour-de-force through a series of the major disasters and conflicts of the Twentieth Century. Beginning with the sinking of the Titanic and concluding with the establishment of the Israeli state, the reader experiences World Wars 1 and 2, the Russian Revolution, as well as incipient and actual Welsh Nationalism through the eyes of two interconnected families, the half Welsh, half Russian Jones family and a family of Manchester Jews.

The novel is at times very funny, but at times the humour is perhaps too clever, Burgess enjoying rather too many in-jokes. The structural conceit is that of Arthurian romance and there are very many parallels: Reg Jones as King Arthur; his slightly simple brother as Parsifal, or perhaps Peredur, the prince with the wound which never heals; the sword itself (Excalibur-Caledvwlch) a metaphor of conflict and of violent nationalism; a final scene which echoes the events of the Morte D'Arthur; a wonderful sequence when Reg places the sword in the recently rediscovered (through a German bombing raid) stone and cannot withdraw it - until he discovers the trick.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects for me reading it in September 2014 was the imminent referendum on Scottish independence. Burgess' portrayal of political nationalism certainly resonated and had not dated.

A real entertainment then, this novel, and one I recommend.
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