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Napoleon Symphony Paperback – February, 1980

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Paperback, February, 1980
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 365 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc (February 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393009645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393009644
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 4.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,636,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“All of the Burgess embellishments are here, and they sing alluringly each to each.” (Sara Sanborn - New York Times)

“A reader who delights in succulent phrase, the zest of word play and a saucy paragraph must fall on each new work of Anthony Burgess with ravenous appetite. . . . Burgess at his most characteristic, craziest.” (Washington Post)

“One of Burgess’s most important and experimental works.” (Andrew Biswell - Daily Telegraph)

“Alive, lush, lyric, human, witty and wildly comic.” (Nation) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Anthony Burgess (1917–1993) is the author of many works, including A Clockwork Orange, The Wanting Seed, Nothing Like the Sun, Honey for the Bears, The Long Day Wanes, The Doctor Is Sick, and ReJoyce. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Peter Czipott on December 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
It's a mystery how this masterpiece came to be so misunderstood. Burgess' favorite among his novels (and mine), this work is a tour de force: a novel about Napoleon in four movements that follow the structure of Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony (originally dedicated to Bonaparte; then, when Boney crowned himself Emperor, re-dedicated "to the memory of a fallen hero"). Burgess has reconciled the repetitive, cyclic nature of music with the novel's need for narrative forward motion brilliantly, yet his text mirrors the musical structure with uncanny detail -- both short- and long-term. Tempo, texture, key changes, rhythm -- all are there in the book. (For rhythm, check out the beginning of the third chapter while listening to the Eroica's scherzo.) The true miracle of this book, however, is that independently of its stylistic conceit, it is profoundly insightful and profoundly moving. Try reading the second chapter -- counterpart to Beethoven's Funeral March movement, and describing the retreat from Moscow -- without emotion. Or the final chapter, about Napoleon's exile on St. Helena, his surprising friendship with his English gaoler's young daughter, and his death. (Here, Burgess replicates Beethoven's theme-and-variations structure with passages in different literary styles: Austen, Henry James, et al., yet without any feeling of pastiche.) Musicians resented the book because they thought it trivialized Beethoven by "making" his symphony "be about" Napoleon. Literary types resented it -- well, probably because they could never bring off such a feat, themselves. Or because they thought a book about Napoleon should be at least four times as long. Try this book, enjoy it, and be grateful for such a gift of words.
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By Dominick DelSante on February 20, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ingenious, funny, eloquent
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joe Cicero on August 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
As someone who has read all Anthony Burgess' novels, I must say that while Napoleon Symphony has it moments, it falls considerably short of his better achievements (Clockwork, Nothing Like the Sun, Earthly Powers, Dead Man in Deptford). Casting about the Internet for other reviews, it seems this work draws raves or rants: Raves from those transported by Burgess' linguistic felicity, rants from those overwhelmed by it (or scandalized by his liberties with good ol' Ludwig van).

The best review I found, and it sums up my assessment perfectly, is by Sara Sanborn and appeared in the June 9, 1974, NY Times, but you will have to look it up as the link I provided was not posted by Amazon. Ms. Sanborn's assessment is spot on.
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More About the Author

Anthony Burgess (25th February 1917-22nd November 1993) was one of the UK's leading academics and most respected literary figures. A prolific author, during his writing career Burgess found success as a novelist, critic, composer, playwright, screenwriter, travel writer, essayist, poet and librettist, as well as working as a translator, broadcaster, linguist and educationalist. His fiction also includes NOTHING LIKE THE SUN, a recreation of Shakespeare's love-life, but he is perhaps most famous for the complex and controversial novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, exploring the nature of evil. Born in Manchester, he spent time living in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in England, until his death in 1993.

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