MF by Anthony Burgess


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The title initials stand first for the hero, Miles Faber, peculiarly orphaned and at twenty ripe for some rite of passage or other. They also truck that other meaning, for Miles' literal passage to the Caribbean island of Castita, to study the little-known poet and artist Sib Legeru, carries him back to an ancestral ring-around of congenital incest, mirror doubles, fated re-enactments and conspiracy. Faber pater had separated the siblings and championed miscegnation to curb the family curse; but by answering a professor's literary riddle, a parody of Oedipus and the Sphinx, Miles sets the old ball in motion again. He inevitably winds up impersonating his twin brother (whom he has helped to kill) and marrying an only slightly better anticipated sister in the -- ah, yes -- symbolic "perfect round" of a circus ring. He also meets his grandfather, whose style, like Miles', suggests at least literary inbreeding, and discovers that his attraction for the esthetics of Sib Legeru has not been accidental. It's Plautus and Terence by way of Frazier? Joyce? Borges? -- heaven knows who else -- and its hooting mythic obbligatos are delivered with the familiar prostrating technique. The rationale, in suitable question and answer form, appears to be: ". . . if nature does all the serious work, what is there left for man?" Simple: "We are all God's jongleurs; we play and tumble before His throne for His weary delectation." Burgess does something comparable for his claque and other readers with Olympian patience.
Pub Date: March 1st, 1971
ISBN: 0224618458
Page count: 219pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1971


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