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Earthly Powers [Hardcover]

Anthony Burgess
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Oct 1980
Kenneth Toomey is an eminent novelist of dubious talent; Don Carlo Campanati is a man of God, a shrewd manipulator who rises through the Vatican to become the architect of church revolution and a candidate for sainthood. These two men are linked not only by family ties but by a common understanding of mankind's frailties. In this epic masterpiece, Anthony Burgess plumbs the depths of the essence of power and the lengths men will go for it.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; 1st Edition 2nd Printing edition (20 Oct 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091439108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091439101
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 5.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,299,290 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.

Product Description


"Crowded, crammed, bursting with manic erudition, garlicky puns, omnilingual jokes... which meshes the real and personalised history of the twentieth century" (Martin Amis)

"Burgess is the great postmodern storehouse of British writing-an important experimentalist; an encyclopaedic amasser, but also a maker of form; a playful comic, with a dark gloom" (Malcolm Bradbury)

"Enormous imagination and vitality - a huge book in every way" (Sunday Times)

"A hellfire tract thrown down by a novelist at the peak of his powers" (The Times)

"In all ways, a remarkable book" (Paul Theroux) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Rollicking, panoramic epic of 20th century by the author of 'A Clockwork Orange' --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An offbeat masterwork 9 Sep 2005
By Jonners
A lot of mythologising surrounds this novel; when it was first published, the critics snarled and disdained it, and in large part didn't understand it, which is forgiveable, because it is a huge, complex monster of a book. The plot (which is far from being the central point of the book) follows the richly colourful and sympathetic inner life of an ancient, eccentric author against the backdrop of twentieth-century history: this is merely a stage against which to set his relationship with an Italian priest of great character and complexity, destined to become Pope. This relationship is in itself a mere frame for an analysis of the nature of good and evil, and faith and free will, in an astonishingly subtle and labyrinthine way. The whole thrust of the book is to propose an idea, only revealed near the end, which is so philosophically shocking that the reader has to have some way of rejecting it, should they so wish. Suddenly the rest of the book is thrown into crystal relief - the vast complexity of the narrative is a web of deliberate errors of fact, logic and conclusion to allow this escape: the nature of human memory and thought itself is thrown into question. Beyond that, I leave you to argue it out amongst yourselves. This is a truly great book by one of Britain's most important C20 writers.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Masterpiece 19 Dec 2001
I can't believe this isn't full of reviews, this book is one of the best books I've ever read. Anthony Burgess is one of the most inventive, original authors, making you believe everything because he entwines fiction with reality. This is a huge book, a review of the 20th century, deep, and extremly inteligent. By the end of the book Toomey (the main character) is a part of your life, I was so sad to let him go...
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wide-ranging and wonderful journey 12 May 2005
By A Customer
This book is a wonderful journey through the life and adventures of Kenneth Toomey, the world-wearing and endearing protagonist. I was gripped the whole way through, although I enjoyed the highly comic scenes in the first half of the novel best. As the story progresses, the tale becomes darker, but it's still a masterpiece. The ending is very strong indeed (and that after one of the best first lines to a novel I've ever read!), with the glorious last quarter twist taking your breath away.
Worth a thousand "The Line of Beauty" books in how to write an epic saga. I can definitely recommend it!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Burgess's masterpiece 28 April 2004
Most writers scratch and fidget, gaze longingly at the telephone, developneurotic ticks, suffer fits of envy, fury, self-pity... and then get alittle writing done. Anthony Burgess, on the other hand, seems to havewritten a chapter before breakfast, knocked off a couple of book reviewsbefore lunch, written a symphony over crumpets and tea, and finallyrelaxed by reading THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY in Mandarin translation. Hisenergy must have provoked suspicion among his peers, who failed to giveEARTHLY POWERS the Booker Prize it so richly deserved. The novel may behis greatest achievement: charting eighty years in the life of KennethToomey as he crosses continents, meets artists and Nazis, Americancultists and a devil-bashing Pope. It is a picaresque comedy that looksinto some of the darkest recesses of the 20th Century. It is huge,rambunctious, and encyclopedic. And don't let that put you off: this(slow) reader finished it in four days. So chuck out that wretchedthriller. Make EARTHLY POWERS your holiday read.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary Powers, too. 10 Oct 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My Amazon copy is my third, the previous editions having fallen apart from constant re-reading. Earthly Powers is simply my favourite novel (of the many I've read either in pursuit of my Masters in English or for less academic pleasure over the decades since). Maybe if I share just some of the reasons you'll give it a try? One thing to say early on is that this is actually a more authentically and intricately "demonic" book than the Exorcist. It has more than one climactic twist to out-gasp Falling Angel or The Sixth Sense. It's also funnier than anything written by Spike Milligan and even Clive James. Interested?
First thing for me, though, is that the book combines the intellectual rewards of "serious" lit' with the more popular joys of any "thumping good read"! Critical analysis can be (and probably has been) made in great depth, if you're so inclined, from the thematics of the plot to close exegesis of the imagery, the syntax, the sound, the intricacies and subtleties of the prose: polymath Burgess is certainly up to any level of detailed appreciation, being more than capable in that area himself. But this is so much more than just a "clever-clever" exercise. Burgess rejoices in language as the virtuoso rejoices in musicianship: that is, he makes brilliance and insight accessible, entertaining and enlightening with the same effortless, but technically expert and hard-won, ease as Mozart or Shakespeare.
So there's that erudite, piquant, moving, hilarious voice to recommend Earthly Powers, just for starters. Then consider the story: well, it's about Good and Evil in the Twentieth Century, right? OK, it's about the Devil and his possession, at some time or other, of just about anyone who ever tried to do right, let alone the weak and downright villainous.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A wonderful book with some great situations. The characters are superb. A great writer
Published 12 days ago by Brian Book Junkie
5.0 out of 5 stars The World According To Burgess
Anthony Burgess' epic, quasi-autobiographical novel Earthly Powers exudes the man's irresistible sense of imagination, multi-faceted life and career, and flowery literariness. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Keith M
4.0 out of 5 stars All humna life is there...
Very explicit in places. Thoughtful and from time to time quite technical theologically. Monsignor Carlo Campanati, a.k.a. Read more
Published 2 months ago by PDC
5.0 out of 5 stars everyone should read this book at least twice
Magnus Opus of one of our best 20 century authors, sumarising his time from a European perspective. An important book.
Published 7 months ago by N R J ROBINSON
4.0 out of 5 stars Earthly Powers - Anthony Burgess
Earthly Powers is a big broth of a book, similar in scope to to Any Human Heart in that spans the history of the 20th century, seen through the eyes of one man, but different in... Read more
Published 9 months ago by RachelWalker
5.0 out of 5 stars history and philosophical thinking - and funny to boot
What a feast - of language, places, characters, history and philosophical thinking - and funny to boot! A great read.
Published 11 months ago by VACLAV LOCHMANN
5.0 out of 5 stars Earthly Powers
I've read this book so many times since it was first published and it remains as my favourite read. Highly recommended!
Published 16 months ago by DawnStorm
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime writing, big themes, great characters
This is a joy to read, so don't be put off by the novel's length -- it is a sweeping tale spanning several decades, from the Great War to the hippy era. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Brian Hollywood
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
Excellent quality and service delivery. Re reading all the old classics which I had lent out - and with the excellent quality and delivery I get from Amazon, I can now renew my... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mrsc Duncan
4.0 out of 5 stars Burgess close to his best
Huge, baggy, meandering (at times), but never less than wonderfully readable. I love Burgess, and this is probably the best place to start (although I actually prefer The Napoleon... Read more
Published 22 months ago by A. J. McGowan
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