The Wanting Seed

Scope and Content

First published in 1962, The Wanting Seed is a dystopian novel in which Burgess writes of an England in which Christianity, fertility and heterosexuality will have been outlawed. Enspun, Ruspun and Chinspun (English, Russian and Chinese Speaking Unions), the main political powers, control population growth with spurious wars, planned extermination, and cannibalism. The plot is shaped by the struggle of Burgess's pregnant heroine, Beatrice-Joanna (her name is taken from Thomas Middleton's seventeenth century play The Changeling), and her husband, Tristram Foxe, a history teacher, to survive and reunite.

Working in a comic-apocalyptic style, the book brings together many of Burgess's obsessions and preoccupations: the tyranny of the state, over-population, the clash between Augustinian and Pelagian ideals, and the persistence of religious feeling in an age of ideological secularism.

In the 1970s the producer Carlo Ponti proposed to turn the novel into a film, and Burgess suggested Ponti's wife, Sophia Loren, for the part of Beatrice-Joanna. The film project ultimately failed.

This series contains drafts of a film script based on the novel, and Burgess's introduction to an unidentified french translation of the novel. It also includes an english and italian translation of a chant, which it is presumed to relate to The Wanting Seed.

Source: "The Real Life of Anthony Burgess" by Andrew Biswell (Picador, 2005) and "A Clockwork Counterpoint: the Music and Literature of Anthony Burgess" by Paul Phillips (Manchester University Press, 2010)