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					                       Bandar Seri Begawan

                Anthony Burgess’s Take on Brunei

                              Tim Kindseth


      A         fter less than two hours teaching at the Sultan Omar Ali
                Saifuddin   College   in   Brunei   Town,    John
                Burgess Wilson, better known as the English novelist
                                                                     Anthony


Anthony Burgess, nearly lost his mind. The tropical climes nagged
him as much as his wife Lynne, whose zany behavior, like cursing
out the Duke of Edinburgh, had turned them both into social pariahs.
__________ (1) That month, Burgess one day crumpled like the empire
around him onto the floor of his classroom. Later he would claim that
he did it willfully, simply for existential kicks. But neurologists in
London, where he was quickly repatriated, told him he had an
inoperable brain tumor.
      He didn’t, thankfully, and lived to write A Clockwork Orange,
the dystopian novel on which Stanley Kubrick’s cult film was based.
__________ (2) He had began writing the scathing send-up of British
colonial life, which is an equally sarcastic take on local mores and
hypocrisy, during the years doctors told him he had little left to live—
a period in which he wrote torrentially, hoping to leave a financial
cushion   for    his   widow-to-be.   The    glib   novel   is   crazed   with
misanthropy, full of disloyal wives, derelict drunks, sexual assaults
and riots—glimmers of what would come in the amoral, absurdist
misadventures of Alex and his droogs in Clockwork.
      Devil of a State is now out of print, as hard to find as a bottle of
whisky is in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei’s capital. __________ (3) The
present restrictions would have greatly dismayed Francis Burroughs
Lydgate, the controller of passports, whom Burgess’s book revolves
around. Graying, thin, his teeth full of rot, 50-year-old Frank has
married three times and hasn’t been back to England in 24 years,
working jobs from New Guinea to Dunia—the fictional East African
uranium-rich caliphate, ruled by a cocksure potentate, where the
novel takes place.
      Dunia, a land of “palms and sweat and hot sauces” and stilt
river villages, is clearly modeled after 1950s oil-rich, Anglophile
Brunei. In Devil of a State a half-deaf U.N. adviser lives in the
Residency, a version of the Bubungan Dua Belas, where British
residents and high commissioners in Brunei lived until Brunei
achieved full independence in 1984. __________ (4) It helps to explain
all the lingering British traces today: Queen Elizabeth II Street; a
bright blue St. Andrew’s Anglican Church; and red water taxis
doubling as Manchester United hoardings, plying their choppy trade
in the Brunei River in the shadow of the grand Sultan Omar Ali
Saifuddin Mosque.
     The mosque—built of        creamy Italian   marble and       English
stained glass—and its golden cupolas were, for Burgess, symbols of
royal vanity. (It’s something visitors to the Royal Regalia Museum,
dedicated to the life of the current Sultan Hassanai Bolkiah and the
many gifts he has received from international dignitaries, may well
recognize.) __________ (5) Just before the ceremony, Paolo locks himself
in a minaret to protest his father’s imperiousness. Democracy activists
take up his cause sending him beer and curry. The latter you’ll still
come across, in shops run by Indians from Chennai. As for beer, you’ll
have to dream, like Lydgate, of the day you find your way out of town.


                                                      TIME January 18, 2010



Choose among the sentences below those that complete the gapped text
above.


  a. The Sultan of Brunei is known as being one of the richest people
  in the world.
  b. The husband of Queen Elizabeth II, a member of the royal family
  of Greece, became a British citizen in 1947, and, though he has no
  official position, he usually travels with the Queen and is involved
  in many public organizations, including the one that gives the
  Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
  c. Some streets in Bandar Seri Begawan retain their colonial names
  (Pretty, Stoney, McArthur), while the wooden House of Twelve Roofs
  is now a museum hung with photographs feting Brunei’s “special
  relationship” with Britain.
  d. During Ramadan, a period of one month, Muslims do not eat or
  drink during the daytime.
  e. Devil of a State ends with the consecration of a similar mosque,
  worked on by Paolo Tasca, a ruttish Italian marble cutter, and his
  gruff father Nando.
f. Burgess, who is notable for his gusto, prodigality and verve, has
also written an ordinary reader’s introduction to James Joyce and
attempted the impossible in an abridgement of Finnegans Wake.
g. Brunei is a rich oil-producing country in the northwest of the
island of Borneo in East Asia, which is under British protection
and became an independent member of the Commonwealth in
1984.
h. Barring the small amounts that non-Muslim visitors are allowed
to bring in for their own use, alcohol is banned in today’s Islamic
Brunei.
i. Add to that a bottle-of-gin-a-day drinking habit, and Burgess
was pretty much pickled by September 1959, when an agreement
was signed granting internal self-governance to Brunei, then a
British protectorate.
j. A year before it hit the book stores, he published Devil of a State,
about his time in Brunei.

				
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