The Doctor is Sick

Scope and Content

This series contains a draft screenplay (adapted from the novel) and related correspondence.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Doctor is Sick is a 1960 novel by Burgess. According to his autobiography, he wrote the book in just six weeks after his return from Malaysia. The novel is a black comedy which relates the story of Dr. Edwin Cyril Spindrift, a married professor of linguistics, who has been sent home to London after collapsing in the classroom while lecturing abroad. Suffering from a mysterious brain ailment, Edwin is confined to a neurological ward, and undergoes the same tests that Burgess had himself experienced at the Neurological Institute on Queen Square in Bloomsbury, London. While Edwin is in hospital, his wife, a promiscuous alcoholic, spends much of her time in local pubs, rarely visiting her husband. Most of the novel is a dream sequence: while he is anaesthetised for brain surgery, Edwin's anxiety over his wife and the company she keeps turns into a fantasy in which Edwin leaves the hospital and encounters his wife's friends, with whom he has various adventures.

Interest in adapting the novel for film was shown as early as 1968 and was ongoing in the 1980s. Among those interested in producing a film were Si Litvinoff and Max Raab, who approached Burgess to write a screenplay in 1969.

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