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Tremor of Intent

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  584 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Denis Hillier is an aging British agent based in Yugoslavia. His old school friend Roper has defected to the USSR to become one of the evil empire's great scientific minds. Hillier must bring Roper back to England or risk losing his fat retirement bonus. As thoughtful as it is funny, this morality tale of a Secret Service gone mad features sex, gluttony, violence, treacher ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 17th 2004 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1966)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
“The scientific approach to life is not necessarily appropriate to states of visceral anguish.”

 photo AnthonyBurgess_zps08849787.jpg
Anthony Burgess: Blimey I’ll show them how to write a bloody spy novel.

Denis Hillier is a British secret agent based out of Yugoslavia who has accepted (bribed with a large retirement bonus) a final assignment to bring his old school friend Roper back to the West. He is on the ship Polyolbion. Knowing Anthony Burgess the name of the ship probably has some deeper meaning, but the most likely reference
Nov 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I think this is supposed to be a satire of James Bond type of novels. The blurbs on the book make it sound sincere though. I never read any of the James Bond books, or any of the real spy novelists so maybe what I think is satire is actually how it is done. Does James Bond fuck teenage and pre-teenage girls? Do his villains sodomize 13 year old boys?

Probably my least favorite Burgess novel so far, but still good enough in it's non-spy / children fucking parts to be interesting. If you are into
Sep 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Anthony Burgess is the master of writing flawed, some might even say horrible, protagonists. Alex (from A Clockwork Orange ) comes to mind first, of course, but there's also the eponymous character from Burgess's The Complete Enderby series, and then Hillier, from Tremor of Intent.

Published in 1966, this is a Cold War spy novel in which the spy, Hillier, is nothing at all like James Bond. I wouldn't go so far as to call this a parody of Ian Fleming's novels, because there's a lot more going on
I thought about abandoning this about halfway through the first chapter, but decided to suck it up and finish it since it was so short. Really wish I'd opted to abandon it, because there was nothing at all redeeming about this novel.

The plot and characters are all over the place. The writing is frilly and pretension in a way that doesn't fit with the overall plot (and which is just absolutely insufferable). Hillier is basically a poor man's Bond, if James Bond were a self-important, totally inc
Oct 31, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a really tough Burgess novel. Some of the reviews said it was like a parody of Ian Fleming and John Le Carre novels. I haven't read any books by those writers. There are moments, lines and paragraphs of pure genius in TREMOR OF INTENT. But there is also a lot of weird stuff which is hard to keep track of.

Its about a British spy who is sent to Russia to bring back an old scientist friend who now works for the enemy. A lot of the novel takes place on a ship where the spy takes part in som
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Burgess being crafty and funny.. a direct send-up of the espionage and suspense genre that somehow manages to keep the reader going back and forth between cliffhanging and just laughing. As if Kingsley Amis had written From Russia With Love as a satire inside an adventure. Cue theme ...Lucky Jim--oo7.

[not read recently enough for more thorough review, but still resonates as maybe closer to five stars than not; time for a reread]
Jamie Rose
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Totally fun hyper-smart slightly creepy spy pastiche...a bit of the Man Who Was Thursday, wee smidge of psychedelia even.
Aug 12, 2008 rated it liked it
"He was becoming both full and empty at the same time"
Jeanne Mixon
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was like reading an anti Le Carre. At times hilarious, especially the sex scenes with the mystical Indian corrupter and aide to the Sidney Greenstreet evil knowledge broker, but for the most part bitter and cynical about religion and governments and the spying biz. I'm still reeling from the rich language and convoluted concept that faith in government and faith in religion is ultimately the same kind of faith. Plus lots of Catholic puns, my favorite the cuckolded man who spies on his prostit ...more
William Towne
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Burgess, James Joyce, thought-provking reads
As a straight-up novel, Tremor of Intent will possibly fail to satisfy the casual reader's craving for a fast-paced, spy thriller. While all of the necessary elements of an espionage novel are present, the language will undoubtedly become an obstacle in the path to their overall enjoyment. However, those who enjoy language and a different style of structuring words will find a decent amount of entertainment in Burgess' effort.

Myself being in the latter category of readers previously mentioned,
Andy Blake
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The master turns his hand to the (satirical) spy novel. A somewhat experimental book whose title Burgess apparently had lying around for a long time before he applied it to an idea, Tremor of Intent follows the bumbling exploits of British secret agent Denis Hillier who is on his last assignment before retirement.

The main body of the book on the cruise boat through the Mediterranean is certainly the most entertaining part. A real romp; fine living, eating contests, hilarious escape plans, stream
Oct 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Anthony Burgess is one of my favorite writers. He wrestles in public with the seamiest of demons, and his style is superb: at once impeccably literate and self-mocking.

Tremor of Intent is an oddity in the Burgess canon, a short pastiche of Ian Fleming's work with a hefty dose of Le Carré thrown in for good measure. A Cold War spy goes on a mission that involves eating contests, statutory rape, and various other unsavory details. The overall impact of the book is slow-burning: you read it once fo
Christian Schwoerke
Burgess indulges himself in word play, and he is at once allusive, elliptical, and pontifical—dropping names and concepts, eliding stretches of action or thought too banal too discuss, and lecturing lyrically about higher things. It's a wise and witty performance, but at the same time it's steeped in pastiche, which makes the novel irresolute as a send-up of the spy novel (a la James Bond or Le Carre) or as an investigation of loftier things (a la Graham Greene). And maybe that's all it's suppos ...more
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of several of Burgess’s Cold War preoccupied novels. It was written during the period he believed he was dying and cranked out 10 books as a life insurance policy for his wife. In it our spy is no 007 of the silver screen. He is haunted by experiences from WWII cleaning up after the Nazis. A spy by default because of a youthful interest in Russian, he believes he has come to terms with his position at the end of a long and infamous career. One last mission forces him to reconcile the past an ...more
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book in 4 sections, the 2nd being the best and lengthiest. The rest, including the part-1 preamble, is a little tedious. The dexterity of Burgess' use of language, however, and his command of history geographical allusions, is rather staggering in the 2nd, middle, bulk of the book. He also gets to take a kind of James Bond "theme" and invert it with a rather incompetent, overly-"thinky" secret agent, with a level of farce and hilarity that was completely entertaining for me. The book is certai ...more
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Существует точка зрения, гласящая, будто «Трепет намерения» Энтони Бёрджесса является пародией на шпионские романы. Надо сразу сказать, данное определение произведению дал сам автор, ссылаясь в предисловии на бессмысленность Холодной войны. Читателю не дано найти то, о чём говорит Бёрджесс, поскольку «Трепет намерения» действительно подобен пародии, но только на английский юмор. Толком пошутить у Энтони так и не получилось. Происходящее на страницах вышло плоским, разбавленным суждениями о религ ...more
Derek Bridge
Burgess does the spy thriller. Sounds promising but I'm not sure it works. At one and the same time, as you'd expect, Burgess aims to be faithful to the genre while subverting it. But this just give a flimsy, rather silly narrative to a typical Burgess meditation on catholicism. On top of that, this has dated badly. Were the sexualised pre-pubescents, for example, as shocking in the mid sixties as they are now? If not, perhaps that explains a lot of the cases that are currently in the newspapers ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An impressive novel with a truly astounding wealth of language, learning, and allusion, of which I can honestly admit I caught only a quarter. Neither a strict satire of James Bond-style spy thrillers nor even a straight good versus evil story with redemption at the end, more an exploration of the inherent wicked neutrality within all of us that we cloak with impostures and delusions, our greed, cupidity, and stupidity casting our lot, along with everyone else's, to scry our fates.
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Sometimes funny, sometimes humane, sometimes despicable. The language had me reaching for a dictionary more frequently than I'd like to admit. Sometimes the vocabulary was illuminating, sometime gratuitous. Oxter? Really? Did you know it was armpit? Was it necessary to use that word?

The story feels a little dated, the approach to the sexes is definitely dated. The implications of good vs evil is not.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
easily my new favorite book ever. a glorious spree of sin and vulgarity in the package of a satirical spy novel. this book has everything, sex, racism, heavy drinking, luxury smoking, and gorging. it's awesome. get it. read it. thank me later.
Kristen Morris
Feb 03, 2012 rated it liked it
From the author of Clockwork Orange, this spy novel takes place aboard an ocean liner and throughout Europe. I expected a much grittier, down and dirty story. Rather fun while reading, but entirely forgettable
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Erudite, fun, the enumeration of various foodstuffs (some of which I believe are fictitious) is probably only exceeded by The Road to Wellville. The cruise ship section is especially good.... "Bring the cold sweet trolley!"
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Anthony Burgess is so much more than A Clockwork Orange. This book is about a double-agent spy who travels to Russia, discovers that almost everyone is some variation of a double-agent spy, and learns that the only true evil is neutrality. I'm inclined to agree.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A spy novel that pokes fun at the genre while taking a serious look at the more important questions about life, love, sex, war, nationalism, religion, friendship and food. Laugh out loud funny, beautifully written, with much to say. Satire at its best.
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book much more than I possibly could have imagined. I've never been much into spy novels, until now.
Nov 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set during the Cold War, an English spy recounts his beginnings and his "final" assignment. I love his phrases, but not the novel. Perhaps I'm just not a fan of the spy genre in general.
Jul 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: have-hard
Awesome! I do love this man.
Jul 22, 2012 added it
fab - especially the food descriptions!
Robert Wuest
Nov 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Burgess playing in a spy novel. Dense, beautiful wording. Bizarre but simple characters. Short page count but takes longer to untangle than most prose.
George Pritchard
You say vocabulary and I say lots of good words.
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Espionage Aficion...: 'Tremor of Intent' by Anthony Burgess 1 7 Feb 17, 2015 09:41AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Anthony Burgess was a British novelist, critic and composer. He was also a librettist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, travel writer, broadcaster, translator, linguist and educationalist. Born in Manchester, he lived for long periods in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in Eng
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“The scientific approach to life is not necessarily appropriate to states of visceral anguish.” 3 likes
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