The Enemy in the Blanket

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The Enemy in the Blanket
Burgesseib.jpg
First edition cover
Author Anthony Burgess
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Long Day Wanes
Genre Colonial novel
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date
1958
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN NA
Preceded by Time for a Tiger
Followed by Beds in the East

The Enemy in the Blanket (1958) is the second novel in Anthony Burgess's Malayan Trilogy The Long Day Wanes. The title is a literal translation of the Malay idiom "musuh dalam selimut", which means to be betrayed by an intimate (somewhat similar but not quite the same as the English "sleeping with the enemy"), alluding to the struggles of marriage but also other betrayals in the story. The novel charts the continuing adventures of Victor Crabbe, who becomes headmaster of a school in the imaginary sultanate of Dahaga (meaning thirst in Malay and identifiable with Kelantan) in the years and months leading up to Malayan independence.

Burgess was dismayed by the design of the cover of the 1958 Heinemann edition of the novel (pictured right), presumably designed in London. It shows a Sikh working as a ricksha-puller, something unheard of in Malaya or anywhere else. He wrote in his autobiography (Little Wilson and Big God, p. 416): "The design on [the] dust-jacket showed a Sikh pulling a white man and woman in a jinrickshaw. I, who had always looked up to publishers, was discovering that they could be as inept as authors. The reviewers would blame me, not the cover-designer, for that blatant display of ignorance."

Characters[edit]

  • Victor Crabbe
  • Fenella, Crabbe's wife
  • Abdul Kadir, Crabbe's hard-drinking and foul-mouthed teaching colleague at the school, whose every sentence includes the words "For fuck's sake!"
  • The hard-up lawyer Rupert Hardman, who converts to Islam in order to wed a domineering Muslim woman, 'Che Normah, for her money. He later bitterly regrets it and tries to return to the West in order to escape the marriage. (The inclusion of the Hardman character sparked a libel suit that halted sales of the novel, but the suit was eventually thrown out by a Singapore court.)
  • Talbot, the State Education Officer, a fat-buttocked gourmand whom Victor Crabbe cuckolds
  • Anne Talbot, Talbot's wife, a wanton adulteress
  • The womanising Abang of Dahaga, who is also a devotee of chess and who aims both to seduce Crabbe's wife and to purloin his car
  • Father Laforgue, a priest who has spent most of his life in China and longs to return there but is prevented from doing so, having been banished by the Communist regime that came to power in Beijing a decade earlier
  • Ah Wing, Crabbe's elderly Chinese cook who, it emerges, has been supplying the insurgents with provisions
  • Jaganathan, a fellow teacher who plots to supplant and ruin Crabbe
  • Mohinder Singh, a shopkeeper trying desperately, and failing, to compete with Chinese traders