Anthony Burgess: Nothing Like the Sun

July 2, 2014

5156kXEtoyL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_The title gives it away, of course: it’s a novel about Shakespeare, and in particular, about his love-life. It’s all wonderfully imagined in this far-from throwaway novel by Anthony Burgess: it’s always interesting to see how one writer reflects on an explores another. Given there’s very little biographical information of any kind about Shakespeare, the imagination supplies the tale: from the hasty early marriage to the pregnant Anne Hathaway to the dark lady of the sonnets as well as the mysterious WH, all is here.

Burgess displays a Joycean playfulness with language, which I had completely forgotten… appropriate, of course, to his subject-matter. He also back-weaves language from Shakespeare’s plays and poems skilfully into the mind and thoughts of his imagined character; there is a power, vigour and intensity that mirrors the bard’s developing soul and art.

It IS all fantasy, of course, but surprisingly credible: early travels, observation of the world around him, acquaintance with various parts of England, his first encounter with the theatre via travelling players. The focus on Shakespeare’s love-life is especially angled towards the possibility of bisexuality: here, the novel is perhaps doubly of its time. It was written in 1964 – the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, and I enjoyed coming back to it in 2014, which is the 450th…

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