Kendra Preston Leonard on Anthony Burgess’s Napoleon Symphony

For those of you sitting around with nothing to do this week (!), have we got a treat for you! This week at The Avid Listener, we bring you another fabulous essay by Kendra Preston Leonard that explores connections between music and literature. All you Beethoven fans will especially want to tune into this essay, because it explores how a modern author–Anthony Burgess–mimics both the structure and sound of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony.

Here’s a teaser: “In 1974, author and composer Anthony Burgess wrote a novel called Napoleon Symphony. He structured this experimental novel on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica.” The intersection of music and the written word in Napoleon Symphony is more complicated than an author including songs in her work, or musicians being inspired by an author’s work and creating music based on it. Burgess wanted to write a fictionalized life of Napoleon, and, according to the text on the cover of one edition of Napoleon Symphony, believed that ‘in the fusion of musical and literary form lies a possible future for the novel.’ How, exactly, does the author combine the two?…”

If you want to know the answer, you can read the entire essay here. And then, if you’re inspired, you can listen to the symphony, read the novel, and share this essay with your friends.

We’re still working on the digest for December; stay tuned! In the meantime, we’ve learned that W. W. Norton has agreed to fund The Avid Listener for a second year. Please celebrate with us, use our essays in your classrooms, and send us your best work!

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

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