This one takes us close to the end of Burgess’s career, when his work took an autobiographical turn and he was less inclined to linguistic invention (though no less inventive as his last two works published during his life – the reprise of Elizabethan English in A Dead Man in Deptford and the poetic pyrotechnics of Byrne indicate.)
Nevertheless, there’s some old favourite techniques herein, such as feral teen gangs using exotic and intriguing macaronic language forms, and there’s something quite new too – an invented language in an alt-history where Burgess doesn’t even give us so much as a single word (and doesn’t need to.)
What was the language of Europe’s earliest people?
The study of ancient, unrecorded languages is known as paelolinguistics. The attempt to recreate them is as much an art as a science, however, and in that regard, there is no finer artist than Anthony Burgess.
Into the Seventies and at the midway point of the series on Burgess’s invented languages over at Ponying the Slovos.
What did people speak before Indo-European languages developed?
How many invented languages can you fit into a small novella that’s mostly poems?
I’ve attempted to answer those questions there.
Bonus: if you ever wondered what 19th century Romanescu dialect sonnets sound like when translated into Mid-Ulster Hiberno-English, I got your back there too.
Into what, I hear you ask? Into the actual dialect of the North of Ireland. You may have heard tell of Ulster-Scots. It too is an invented language, created (and not the first either nor the last) for political reasons. One day I’ll tell that tale too.
Cardiff even has an entire square dedicated to Roald Dahl.
But Manchester to date has not recognised its greatest author. Manchester City Council has launched a new consultation exercise on the future of statues and monuments in the city. You can see the questionnaire by clicking here.
There is an opportunity to propose new subjects for monuments. Perhaps you might consider filling it in and proposing that they rectify their egregious lack of an Anthony Burgess statue?
The third part of the series on Anthony Burgess’s invented languages is now live over at Ponying the Slovos, featuring what just might be Burgess’s most significant novel, the weird, wonderful and intensely Structuralist riddle that is M/F.
In my book on Anthony Burgess, I pay M/F a lot of attention, because I think it’s a very misunderstood novel and also one that is extremely important in Burgess’s own development as a writer. It’s a novel about riddles, based largely on Claude Levi-Strauss’s Structuralist thinking, especially as applied to early myth such as Oedipus.
It’s also a novel about what meaning actually means, and how we look for it in vain and what it is that generates it for us.
And, as this article on PtS details, it’s a novel which, like A Clockwork Orange, features its own invented language.
Why the title M/F? Apparently an actor said to Burgess that someone should update Sophocles’s Oedipos Tyrannos with the title “Motherfucker.” Alas, that title wasn’t possible at the time of publication, but the truncated version actually facilitates other interesting dynamics from the novel, such as male/female and the protagonist’s own name, Miles Faber, the soldier-maker.
While researching my forthcoming book on Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, I came across mention of Molodoy, a shortlived Sheffield punk band of quasi-fascist tendencies whose schtick was that they appeared in full droog regalia on stage.
Molodoy is the Nadsat term for young, though it is barely used in the novel. Burgess did however use it extensively in one of his many revisits to the world of Alex, when he conducted an interview with his own creation entitled “A Malenky Govoreet about the Molodoy” in 1987, which can be found in the 2012 Corrected Edition of the novel as edited by Professor Andrew Biswell, or online here for now.
Judging by the information in this article on Dangerous Minds, the band Molodoy sound like they were right charmers. Some members later went on to form the disturbingly named Dachau Choir. Anyhow, their cover of ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’ does strike one as a note of sour and deranged genius.
Molodoy were far from the only band to derive inspiration from Burgess’s novel. In fact a large host of musical artists have either named themselves after aspects of the novel, or else written songs inspired by it.
But for Burgess, we might never have had Moloko, Moloko Knives, The Devotchkas, The Droogs, Campag Vellocet or Korova (which refers to both a band and a record label). And of the ten fictional bands mentioned within the work, at least five have had their names appropriated by real-life groups: Heaven 17, Johnny Zhivago, The Humpers, The Sparks and The Legend.
The ongoing project to map Anthony Burgess’s OTHER invented languages continues over at Ponying the Slovos.
In the latest segment, we look at Burgess’s often overlooked dystopia, The Wanting Seed, written around the same time as A Clockwork Orange, as well as his superb novel on Shakespeare’s love-life, Nothing Like The Sun, and the second volume of his perennially popular Enderby series, which features a variant of Strine, the lingo of Straya.
I’m the co-director of the Ponying the Slovos project which looks at invented languages in translation, predominantly focusing on Nadsat, the teen slang of Alex in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.
But Burgess didn’t just invent one language for his fiction. In fact, like Tolkien before him, he invented quite a few. So we thought late last year it was time to take a look at the others, and try to explain how they function and what they’re made of.
There will, as you might have surmised, be seven more to follow. If the languages of aliens, stone age man, Jesus Christ, William Shakespeare, the streets of 19th century Rome, Australia, Sicily or Medieval Latin blasphemers is of interest, it’s a series which may intrigue you.