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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 March 2009
First of all, hilarious: Enderby himself (original "grumpy old man," poet, barman, murder suspect, lecturer) is a wonderful creation, old beyond his years, hugely erudite, technically expert yet naturally, instinctively poetic - and absolutely hopeless, a complete innocent when it comes to society, sex and the modern world. These contradictions allow Enderby to be placed in a series of extreme, farcical circumstances which pit him against increasingly exotic situations, places and people - from the sedate English South Coast, via Italy to Morocco and Tangier; from treacherous fellow minor literati to yobbish pop singers (one of whom he is wrongly accused of assassinating), waiters, tourists, students; and the lovers with whom he invariably proves unlucky. A broad, imaginative canvas of human life is here, warts and all.

Our fantastically articulate, bumbling hero finds himself duped, seduced, betrayed, plagiarised, whilst all the time offering us a beautifully ironic commentary on his misadventures. Enderby may be, like Burgess, a master of language, but his character flaws and sheer bad luck put him into rich conflicts, most commonly with the haters of intelligence, creativity and learning: those sneaky, censorious, prurient prudes who, even at the time of Enderby's writing - and even more so since, prophetic Burgess! - had begun to commandeer the media, politics, literature and the high moral ground, to the detriment of all of us who value, as does Burgess, that most blessed of all human gifts, common sense.

Enderby is another splendid Burgess attempt to confront the unfairness of it all, Man's Inhumanity to Man: and, as in the magnificent Earthly Powers, morally weak character, sloppy thinking and expression, the cheap, the easy, the obvious - these insidious sins trump any of the more obvious cruelties of people. They are embodied here particularly amongst those enemies of Enderby who rush to judge, strike outraged postures, cultivate self-righteousness, miss the point and generally abuse the gift of language.

Way before "political correctness" acquired that misnomer, Burgess used Enderby to hit back, in the most seriously comical way, against all those apologists and opportunists amongst whom genuine insight and emotion are feared and loathed, whilst cheap sentiment and ignorance are excused, even revered. In the face of brutish contempt and superior posturing, Enderby remains consistently, deliberately, uncomfortably provocative (and funny, really funny); he responds to life's true injustices with his sharpest weapon, his tongue, and the offence he cultivates is at the core of Burgess' robust response to weak minds. Other than Earthy Powers, modern writing has seen little to match this daring dissection of contemporary orthodoxy.

Entertaining, fascinating, instructive adventures, terrific central character, some especially moving moments (Enderby's sexual failure(s), the poignant death of his former literary arch-enemy); the advent of a sexy, redeeming "muse," the sharpest of satire - how can you resist this! There's even a couple of pages of Enderby's "screenplay" - later pornographically filmed - of Hopkins' "Wreck of the Deutschland"; not to mention the Minotaur poem made into a horror film and thus contributing to Enderby's "infamy" amongst the precious brigade: drop dead hilarious and unflaggingly entertaining, all of it.

Indeed, you can measure your own sanity against the Enderby scale, I suggest. If you find yourself chortling and nodding most of the time, you're probably OK. If it causes "concern" at all: have a word with yourself. Anyone taking objection to the scathing way Burgess/Enderby confronts the relativist world, with its hazards and frustrations, needs to read with a little more openness of mind and readiness of smile. For anyone moved to take wheedling exception to, for example, certain racial references (especially in the grimly accurate US college sequence in Clockwork Testament) from which "the narrative suffers" (no, it doesn't, it gains flavour) - why bother? Burgess has already nailed you right here.
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on 15 June 2003
For those of us who wished to follow the adventures of that bitter old cynic and unabashed poet, Francis Xavier Enderby, we can now indulge in the completed story of his life.
Burgess was a marvellous writer with a playful love of language that is readily apparent in the Enderby novels. Although the story is somewhat laboured towards the final installment, there is a true joy to be found in the cathartic writing of the first two. The near-scholarly tone of the storytelling does not diminish the pleasure to be gained from the slow and careful reading necessary for enjoyment at its fullest.
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on 7 November 2014
Love Burgess - one of the best black humourists of the last century. Clockwork Orange it's not but then what makes Burgess special is the range of his work. I first read Enderby (vol 1) as a teenager and was delighted to find the complete collection for my Kindle. Great to catch up with the protagonist as he wanders from Morocco to the US creating confusion and destruction in his wake, Comic genius!
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on 9 September 2010
Whilst reading this book in public, I was asked, `That's the same guy who wrote Clockwork Orange isn't it?' I replied in the affirmative and was then asked, `Is it similar to Clockwork Orange?' To which I could reply in the negative as it isn't. I am then glad that he did not ask me what it is comparable to as I'm not so sure... The books are certainly like nothing I've ever read before.

Imagine going to a Publisher today with a similar proposal to the following...

Gifted Poet, Francis Xavier Enderby, has questionable gastronomic and hygiene habits. His grotesque stepmother ruined both his Libido and his Catholicism for him. Now all he wants to do is live a solitary existence which allows him to collect money from investments and to write his poems whilst on his toilet, especially the masterpiece he is currently working on. Unfortunately there are many obstacles preventing him from living the life he wants, including: A friend asking him to write love poems to a barmaid, awards to accept, jealous husbands, the plagiarising of his work, being wrongfully accused of murder and many others but most especially the women...

It may be different, but it is exceptionally funny and full of satirical targets that make for a most enjoyable read... I would strongly recommend it.
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on 2 March 2014
Burgess creates his greatest character, the poet Enderby (or Hogg, depending on his circumstances) who struggles with life, death, resurrection, plagiarism, and women who interrupt his muse - Harold Bloom regarded the original as one of England's most undervalued novels - this four volume set is an absolute delight, written with fire and rapier-wit. Totally recommended.
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on 17 August 2014
Quite a relief to find that 'Inside Mr Enderby' is included in this anthology, as it's largely out of print as a single novel. Without reading it first, the continuity simply isn't there. Burgess's love of language is shown to its best effect.
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on 16 January 2013
Enderby is one of the great comic creations of 20th century English literature. An acquired taste granted, but once you come to know and love this endearing poet you will savour all his Mr Bean antics and thank Burgess for bringing him back for more. Some wonderful additional material as well eg time travelling to Shakespearean England.
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on 8 December 2012
Welly well well my droogs I saw the film that first introduced me to Mr Burgess as a sixteen year old teen gang member Knowing the excitement of motorcycles versus scooters and all that synthomesc that came with it. Adolescent quixotic tilters. The film strangely caught, amplified, even glorified the need of the time for sex ,drugs and violence. I knew Alex and his chipgrease hair smeared Billy boy adversary though our violence was mainly lesser and strictly shared amongst ourselves not bystanders. I remember watching AB on the late sunday night telly. I was young then, he was not what I expected. How could this old man have so encapsulated the teenage fantasy world some of us lived in near reality. If he got that so right, he must have more to give despite his TV persona of slightly seedy schoolteacher. I was am no scholar, would probably have been dismissed as a knw nowt prole by endergess or bendrby but even my sad intellect is tickled by his wit and wisdom although no doubt a great deal of it flies over my head. I become aware that the glorious ninth can be played on other instruments than a moog. Hormones decrease, I grew up got a wife and cortina, came and went, The pastoral soothes.
It would be impossible to believe that the real events of his life, tragic, plain cruel, scintillatingly ironic are not the meat of this dish, though hardly comfort food. Time moves on through earthly powers and any old iron and malayan trilogy, and of course Enderby, new then, dated now but cunning word scribbler Willant Burgspeare future proofed it all by going into the immortal past and dragging us switch back and forth with him, plenty here and there for so little of in out. I am revisiting Enderby after probably twenty years or more, a forty year relationship with its author as a remote sometime teacher, ofttime faceless drinking buddy. I can deny the hateful words of predjudice crossed my lips that our backgrounds ingrained in us no more than I can deny the shock of seeing them now having presumably gone therough a metaporphic timed wash of the self. The truth is different from different peoples perspectives at different times certainly my own, Anthony Burgess weaves fascinatingly complex linguistic labyrinths, his truth threads guiding us to his version of the "simple truth" I know of no author who has researched the darkest parts of human nature so dilligently but as in the small flame of a candle needing the darkness to glow brightly, offers a pinprick of hope as age slams doors behind us.
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on 12 August 2008
4 stars for Inside Enderby and Enderby Outside, less for Enderby's Dark Lady. The Clockwork Testament vacillates somewhere in the middle. A kind of twin to Earthly Powers, what with the introverted author-heroes, the foreign climes, the petty jealousies and competitions, the continual humiliation by objects of desire, ham-fisted social advances and public hostility to work of questionable value. But this is weaker in a lot of ways. At least part of this is due to reading all four books as one but this is also let down by the incessance of Burgess' references to 'blacks' and 'browns' throughout The Clockwork Testament. You can never quite tell whether it is real animosity peeking through a fictional façade or some mix of provocation and social commentary on the dangers of communal classification. Either way, the narrative suffers. The same themes surface in Earthly Powers but dangle much more ambiguously, avoiding the monotonous obnoxiousness that Enderby/Burgess displays here. That said, the linguistic inventiveness amuses and intrigues as much as ever (especially if you like Shakespeare), even if it too often seems tired.
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on 26 January 2013
I discovered Anthony Burgess in the 70s, someone lent me Clockwork Orange and I loved it. Browsing in a bookshop one day I came across Clockwork Testament and bought it straight away read I and was blown away! A few years on, I bought Enderby which contained the first three books, a while later buying Enderbys dark lady. Over the years these have been read and read and read, I still have them but they are now very tattered and fragile. When I got my kindle, I knew that The Complete Ended by had been published so I had to have it. Just finished reading for the millionth time and it won't be the last. I have enjoyed reading most of Mr Burgesses work, but for me, the Enderby series is the best. CLASSIC!
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