Written in 600 stanzas of ottava rima (a rhyming stanza form of Italian origin), the story follows the fortunes of an Irishman, named Michael Byrne. Byrne is a composer, painter and womaniser, who fathers numerous children around the world. His journey takes him from post Great War London to the centre of Hitler's Third Reich, before he vanishes, presumed dead in Africa. After his disappearance, Byrne's twin sons travel across Europe to pursue their father, and ultimately receive an invitation from him to London where he will read his last will and testament.
In an interview with Clare Boylan of the Guardian newspaper, Burgess announced that he had been working intermittently since 1989 on a novel in verse. Byrne was ultimately published posthumously in 1995.
This series contains notes on Burgess's plans for the novel, (incomplete) drafts, and an uncorrected proof.
Source: "The Real Life of Anthony Burgess" by Andrew Biswell (Picador, 2005) and "While the Smoke Clouds Gather: Writers at Work", The Guardian, 22 August 1991, p. 32.