Critical Context

Tremor of Intent is an outstanding example of Burgess’ prolific inventiveness in a variety of fictional forms. It does not have the epic range of his later novels such as Earthly Powers (1980) or the relative containment of entertainments such as The Doctor Is Sick (1960). Tremor of Intent, which many critics consider his most balanced novel, has never earned the almost prophetic status or popularity of A Clockwork Orange (1962). Yet what is a virtual parody of the espionage genre proves a singularly apt vehicle for Burgess’ exploration of the nature of good and evil and the growth of an eccentric or disharmonious personality, an antihero, into some form of relative sainthood.

Burgess is fundamentally a religious writer, and Tremor of Intent is an unambiguous statement of his persistent view of the Manichaean duality of existence, a composition of opposites. The novel also furthers his characteristic treatment of language as a sophisticated game and of fiction as a hugely resourceful medium; it testifies to Burgess’ considerable wit, his variousness, and his stylishness. He is, here and elsewhere, the conscious literary artist.