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Earthly Powers (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 6 May 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (6 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099468646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099468646
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 75,869 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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Review

"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)

Book Description

Rollicking, panoramic epic of 20th century by the author of 'A Clockwork Orange'

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Jonners on 9 Sep 2005
Format: Paperback
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 By Francisco Pita Caravana Santos Silva on 19 Dec 2001
Format: Paperback
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 By A Customer on 12 May 2005
Format: Paperback
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 By Gregory Norminton on 28 April 2004
Format: Paperback
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 By Plom de Nume on 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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