The late writer's epic drama charting the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte through the ranks during the early years of the French Revolution will have its premiere on BBC Radio 3. Humorous and historically detailed, Burgess' story is set against the background of the general's tumultuous relationship with Josephine.
Manchester-born Burgess, who died in 1993, wrote at least 33 novels, including the notoriously subversive A Clockwork Orange. Researches in his archive, left to the Burgess Foundation by his widow Liana, have now revealed that he wrote a total of 25 works of non-fiction, two volumes of autobiography, three symphonies, and more than 250 other musical works, including a piano concerto, a ballet and stage musicals.
Burgess, who also contributed regularly to the Observer, had a long-term fascination with Napoleon and wrote a novel, Napoleon Symphony, based on the structure of Beethoven's Eroica symphony. Burgess approached director Stanley Kubrick about making it into a film, but Kubrick, who had directed the film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, declined. Burgess then wrote his play, although it never reached the stage.
Now at last the drama, which stars Toby Jones as Napoleon in the adaptation for radio by Anjum Malik, is to be heard for the first time as part of a wider Bonaparte season on Radio 3, marking 200 years since the historic retreat from Moscow.
Earlier this year the Observer launched an essay competition to celebrate the newspaper's association with the late writer.
The judges are writers Kamila Shamsie, William Boyd and Scarlett Thomas, as well as Andrew Biswell, who is the director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, and Robert McCrum, associate editor of the Observer. The result will be announced in the next few weeks.