[ilds] Liana Burgess, 78, Italian Translator of Durrell's Quartet

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Tue Dec 4 18:36:59 PST 2007

 From your listserv wire-service:  All the news that is fit to copy and 

I would be obliged to any of our Italian subscribers for additional info 
on the Durrell translation reported below.  Did the translation make it 
into print?  Is it still in print?  So far I have been unable to find a 
bibliographical record.

If the connection proves true, it would mean that wives of two prominent 
twentieth-century novelists translated Durrell's /Quartet/--Anthony 
Burgess's wife Liana (Italian) and Julio Cortazar's wife Aurora 
Bernárdez (Spanish).


Liana Burgess
Telegraph (UK)
Last Updated: 1:30am GMT 05/12/2007

Liana Burgess, who died on Monday aged 78, was a translator, literary 
agent and the second wife of the novelist and composer Anthony Burgess, 
author of A Clockwork Orange and Earthly Powers.

She was feared and respected by publishers throughout the world for her 
ability to drive a hard bargain on behalf of her husband's writing, and 
her prize-winning Italian translations of Burgess's Malayan Trilogy and 
The End of the World News did much to secure his reputation as one of 
the major European writers of the 20th century.

By the time he died in 1993, her shrewd negotiations with publishers and 
film companies had netted a fortune of more than $3 million and 11 
houses all over Europe. She donated many of these assets to universities 
to promote the study of Burgess's work.

Liliana Macellari (who shortened her first name to Liana) was born in 
Porto Civitanova in Italy on September 25 1929. Her mother was the 
Contessa Maria Lucrezia Pasi della Pergola, an amateur poet and painter.

Lucrezia was said to have brought the family into disrepute by marrying 
a photographer and actor named Gilberto Macellari, who died during the 
Second World War after fathering two daughters.

Liana's sister, Grazia, died young in a mountaineering accident, and her 
mother, who claimed to be descended from Attila the Hun, spent years 
mourning her dead daughter by painting countless portraits of her and 
writing bad poetry in her memory.

Liana taught herself English by reading the novels of Henry James and, 
after graduating from the University of Bologna, she travelled to 
America in 1953 to pursue literary research on a Fulbright Fellowship. 
Here she met and married her first husband, Benjamin Johnson, the 
English translator of Italo Svevo's short stories.

The marriage was not a success; they separated shortly afterwards and 
Johnson divorced her in 1967.

In the late 1950s Liana Macellari returned to Rome, where she founded an 
English-language theatre company. *Writing as Liana Johnson, she began 
her Italian translation of Lawrence Durrell's epic Alexandria Quartet in 

In Rome she had an affair with an unemployed drifter called Roy 
Halliday, with whom she moved to London. After Halliday was drowned in a 
sailing accident in the Atlantic, Liana Macellari said that she had 
gained nothing from her involvement with him except his typewriter.

She met Anthony Burgess, who was to become her second husband, in 1963. 
While working for the Bompiani Literary Almanac, she was asked to 
compile an annual report on new English fiction.

When she read A Clockwork Orange and Inside Mr Enderby (published under 
the pseudonym Joseph Kell), she believed that she had discovered two 
novelists of genius. She wrote enthusiastically to both authors and was 
surprised to discover that they were the same man.

They arranged to meet for lunch in Chiswick, and immediately began a 
clandestine affair. "I fell in love with the work," she said later. 
"Anthony was never a good-looking man."

Burgess was powerfully attracted by her dark-haired beauty, and by her 
passionate hatred of the Italian state and the Roman Catholic Church.

He was unhappily married to his first wife, Llewela, a notoriously 
aggressive Welsh alcoholic, but refused to leave her for fear of 
offending his cousin, George Patrick Dwyer, who was the Roman Catholic 
Bishop of Leeds.

Liana Macellari gave birth to a son by Burgess, Paolo Andrea (later 
known as Andrew Burgess Wilson), in 1964. They continued to meet in 
secret, and Llewela was told nothing of Burgess's illegitimate child.

In 1967 Liana took up a teaching post at King's College, Cambridge, 
where she made Italian translations of Thomas Pynchon's V and The Crying 
of Lot 49.

Reunited with Burgess shortly after the death of his wife in March 1968, 
she abandoned her academic career in Cambridge and they married six 
months later. Liana was 38, Burgess 53; Paolo Andrea, newly legitimised, 
was four years old.

Determined to avoid the punitive 90 per cent income tax imposed on high 
earners by the Labour government, the trio embarked on a life of 
restless travelling in a Bedford Dormobile.

While Liana drove - often dangerously - through France and across the 
Alps, Burgess sat in the back of the van and clattered away at his 
typewriter, producing novels and film-scripts for Lew Grade and Franco 

They settled briefly on Malta before setting out on a four-year tour of 
American universities. Burgess was a visiting professor at Chapel Hill, 
Princeton and City College in New York. Liana developed her talent for 
photography, and began an ambitious translation of James Joyce's 
Finnegans Wake under the title pHorbiCEtta.

Driven by a belief that property was a sound investment, she bought 
houses in Rome, Malta, Bracciano, Callian, Siena, Lugano, Twickenham, 
central London and Monaco. Many of these residences were sparsely 
furnished, and some were left to stand empty for decades.

Her activities as an agent were equally unconventional. She refused to 
be loyal to any publisher, convinced that they were all motivated by 
greed and dishonesty.

Her 25-year marriage to Burgess was a remarkable literary partnership. 
Her translation of the Trilogia Malese - in which she found ingenious 
Italian equivalents for his bawdy, polyglot puns - was awarded the 
Premio Scanno prize.

As well as acting as his European agent from 1975, she translated 
Belli's blasphemous Roman sonnets for the novel Abba Abba.

She also appears in fictional form as the seductive Italian photographer 
Paola Lucrezia Belli in Burgess's autobiographical novel, Beard's Roman 
Women (1977).

When she sued the executive producers of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork 
Orange for 10 per cent of the film's profits, this money allowed the 
family to establish a semi-permanent home on the rue Grimaldi in Monaco.

Living in a tax haven accorded with her strong belief that the earnings 
of writers should not be taxed under any circumstances.

Exiled in Monaco, Burgess often claimed that he had no friends except 
his wife, but he maintained that the small civilisation of their 
marriage was sufficient.

Liana was grief-stricken when he died from lung cancer in 1993, as she 
was when Paolo Andrea died suddenly in 2002; but she was sustained by 
her determination that Burgess's literature and music should not be 

As her health began to fail in recent years, she was looked after with 
great kindness by two close friends in Monaco, Gerard Docherty and 
Caroline Langdon Banks.

She leaves no surviving relatives, but her commitment to scholarship has 
led to the creation of the Anthony Burgess Centre at the University of 
Angers and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester.

Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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