NAPOLEON SYMPHONY by Anthony Burgess


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Burgess (Clockwork Orange) strives windily for a weave of story and music into one mock heroic comic wordblast suggesting a novel in cloudborne movements like Beethoven's Eroica, sometimes hurtling, sometimes at funeral pace, but giving the reader a historical framework fluted with streamers of language, all stops pulled out on free association, words whirling like Finnegan Wake or spelled backwards, sentences and whole passages in echoing repeats from one movement to the next, long passages in rhymed couplets, an overrich rainbow prose layered like petits fours, all bravura, all egoism, a posturing Promethean spew of supreme self-indulgence, a whole palaceful of Empire furniture crushed into a fruitcube like a Cadillac in a junkyard compactor, raisined with vaginal vulgarities, richly obscene foot soldiers as chorus to scenes plunged into without warning, a wagon bearing Napoleon's thinking corpse, Italy, Egypt, Paris, Elba, St. Helena, a terrific film unfolding in burgundy-tinted filters, out of the typewriter endlessly spooling, dead from excess, may Ludwig van forgive.
Pub Date: May 1st, 1974
ISBN: 0393009645
Page count: 365pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1974


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