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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Burgess Anthony
 

«Enderby's Dark Lady», Anthony Burgess

Иллюстрация к книге

Book 04 of the Enderby Quartet

Composed to placate kind readers of

The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End,

who objected to my casually killing

my hero

 

A Prefatory Note

Enderby first got into my head in early 1959, when I was a colonial civil servant working in the Sultanate of Brunei, North Borneo. One day, delirious with sandfly fever, I opened the door of the bathroom in my bungalow and was not altogether surprised to see a middle-aged man seated on the toilet writing what appeared to be poetry. The febrile vision lasted less than a second, but the impossible personage stayed with me and demanded the writing of a novel about him. I wrote half this novel in 1960, a year in which the medical authorities had condemned me to death with an inoperable cerebral tumour. It did not appear that there would be time to write the second part of the novel, so I published the first part as a whole book under the title of Inside Mr Enderby. To the chagrin of the doctors, who did not like their prognosis to be proved false, I lived and was able, in 1967, to write the second part of the novel, under the title of Enderby Outside. A few years later Enderby demanded that he be killed off in a novella entitled The Clockwork Testament. I duly murdered him with a heart attack. Now, in this new brief novel, he is alive again. It seems that fictional characters, though they sometimes may have to die, are curiously immune to death. Is Don Quixote dead or alive? Is Hamlet? Is Little Nell? Enderby's demand to be resurrected has come inconveniently, for I am engaged on a longish novel about Nero and St Paul.

A decent respect to people's notions of plausibility demands that I try to explain why Enderby, having died of a heart attack in New York about ten years ago, should be alive three years later in the state of Indiana. (And why Indiana, a part of the United States I do not know very well?) I think we have to look at it this way: all fictional events are hypotheses, and the condition of Enderby's going to live in New York would be that he should die there. If the hypothesis is unfulfilled, he does not have to die. Enderby was condemned to visit the United States, there to suffer, and there was a choice between his going to Manhattan to teach Creative Writing and his being employed to write the libretto for a ridiculous musical about Shakespeare in a fictitious theatre in Indianapolis. He took the second course, which involved his staying alive to risk a suicidal identification (himself with the Bard) but to come through unscathed. He will, of course, eventually die, but only because his creator will die. On the other hand, being a fictional character, he cannot die.

Enderby's name comes from two sources – the remote and uninhabitable Antarctic territory called Enderby Land, and a poem about a shipwreck by Jean Ingelow in which church bells clang out a tune called "The Brides of Enderby". His poems are, inevitably, written by myself, but only myself in disguise as Enderby. A reviewer in Punch said, of the first novel or half-novel, "It would be helpful if Mr Burgess could indicate somewhere whether these poems are meant to be good or bad," a fine instance of critical paralysis. T. S. Eliot liked at least three of the poems, but posterity is beginning to find his taste unsure, especially since he too, like Enderby, became the librettist for a Broadway musical. I have no opinion about either Enderby's poems or Enderby himself. I do not know whether I like or dislike him; I only know that, for me, he exists. I fear that he may probably go on existing.

 

A. B.

 

Lugano, November 1983

1

Will and Testament

When Ben Jonson was let out of jail he went straight to William Shakespeare's lodgings in Silver Street and said: "Let us drink."

"Ben," Will cried. "Your ears are untrimmed and your nose whole. The shearers were held off, then. I'm glad to see you well."

"But thirsty. Let us go and drink."

"We can drink here and shall. Malmsey? Sherrisack? Or shall I send out for ale? Ben Ben Ben, have a care. Next time the shearer may be the ultimate trimmer, the sconce-chopper as they call him."

"I've a mind to drink in a tavern. Let us go."

"As you will, this being a sort of great day for you. How was it in jail? Are Marston and Chapman there yet?"

"There still and like to stay. After all, the offending line was of their making. As for the jail – stink, maggots, rats, lepers, pocky chancres. But there was a man I will tell you of while we drink."

"You swore to me the line was your line, the best line in the whole of Westward Ho as you would have it. How does it go now? 'The Scotch -' It begins with 'The Scotch -'."

"Eastward Ho is the title. You look as ever the wrong way. Back when the rest of us look forward. It is this: 'The Scotch are good friends to England, but only when they are out of it.' Well, indeed I wrote it, but it seemed politic to father it on the other two. Under oath, aye, but a poet could not live did he not perjure." They went down the stairs and past the workshop of the tiremaker Mountjoy, Will's landlord. Mountjoy was scolding, in Frenchified English, the apprentice Belott.

"Immortal," Will said. "He can never say that I did not make him immortal. But no gratitude there."

"How immortal?"

"I have him in Harry Five as the herald."

"He taught you the dirty French for the same?"

"He put right the grammar. I knew the dirt already." Out in Silver Street, which the sun had promoted to gold, they saw beggars, limbless soldiers, drunken sailors, whores, dead cats, ordinary decent citizens in stuff gowns, a kilted Highlander with a flask of usquebaugh in place of a sporran. A ballad singer with few teeth sang:

 

"For bonny sweet Robin was all my joy,

And Robin came oft to my bed.

But Robin did wrong, so to end his song

The headsman did chop off his head."

 

"An old one," Ben said. "And still I cannot hear it without a shudder."

"It seems older than it is. A great deal has happened in the interim. Poor Robin."

"That was your name for him? You called him Robin to his face?"

"He was Robin to my lord of Southampton, and my lord of Southampton was ever Harry to me. So it was always out-upon-titles. But, he was ever saying, when he was become King Robert the First of England there would be no familiarity then. Would it had been so, sometimes I think, though bloodless, bloodless."

"Treason, man, careful."

"What will you do, report me to Gobbo Cecil? 'An't please you, good my lord, there is this low playmaker that doth say how the Essex rebellion should have succeeded.' He'll say, 'Aye aye, and maybe he's in the right of it.' He's no love for slobbering Jamie with his bishops and buggery and drinking tobacco is an unco foul sin to the body, laddie, and doth inflame the lung, if thou lovest tobacco then lovest thou not thy king."

Ben sighed. "I know how it is. I say too many Scotchmen about and I am flung in jail. You could tell the king to his face that he's a – I say no more, you see that sour man in black there? Following us, is he? Nay, he turned off. You could skite in his majesty's mouth and he'd say, 'Aye, I do dearly love a guid witty jest, laddie, will ye be raised to a Knicht o' the Garrrterrr?' Some men are born jail meat. Others – Here, round here. At the bottom of this lane. Go tipatoe, 'tis all slime underfoot. Careful, careful."


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