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.