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.