The Right to an Answer
|The Right to an Answer|
First edition cover
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
The Right to an Answer is a darkly comic 1960 novel by Anthony Burgess, the first of his repatriate years (1960–69). One of its themes is the disillusionment of the returning exile. The critic William H Pritchard described the novel in a 1966 publication as "surely Burgess' most engaging novel".
Characters and plot
- J.W. Denham, the narrator, a British businessman who lives and works in Japan but who has returned to Leicester, England, because his father is dying. Describing himself as a "professional expatriate", Denham leaves a mistress, Michiko, behind in Tokyo. Denham spends much time seeking sexual sustenance during his UK sojourn and "imbibing liquors of all kinds".
- Mr. Raj, the novel's central character, recently arrived from Sri Lanka and trying to find his way in British society. Mr. Raj is unfailingly polite but soon shows that he is a man of power. Hence his name, which means "rule"; in a reversal of roles, it is he who comes to rule the English. He has some rather unattractive features, displaying, for example, strong prejudices against black people. He introduces Denham's father, on the eve of his death, to the delights of fiery Ceylonese curries. The surprises Mr. Raj has up his sleeve for Denham himself, involving the latter's living arrangements, turn out to be less than pleasant. And Mr Raj later does something that is even more shocking.
- Ted Arden, the efficient and sympathetic landlord of Denham's local pub, who lays on a meal and makes a speech after Denham's father's funeral. His name and family links have Shakespearean associations.
- The initials "J.W." of Denham's name are also those of his creator Burgess (born John Wilson).
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