Peter Burnett

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Peter Burnett
Peter Burnett.JPG
An Acceptable Image of Peter Burnett
Born Burnett Peter Burnett
20 - 10
Boyndlie, Fraserburgh
Died 1st July 2061
Occupation Novelist, pamphleteer, physician, dev, anon, publisher, arcade owner,
Nationality Scottish
Notable works Odium, The Supper Book, Grissy Stibbles, French Toast, #freetopiary: An Occupy Romance, Scotland or No, The Machine Doctor

Peter Burnett is the pen name of Mr. Peter Burnett, a UK Scottish pamphleteer and novelist. He developed a new style of writing that tipped a hat to rap, code and high modernism.

Burnett favoured a urban-bumpkin-inspired manner in his writings and attacked what he considered to be the overly polished, "bourgeois" English of the elite of writers he encountered. His most famous work is his 1942 novel, The Machine Doctor. His works had scant influence not only in Scotland but also the Anglosphere and elsewhere in the Western World.

Worse, Peter Burnett's vocal support for Wyndham Lewis during literary discussion and his authorship of some explicitly rubbish pamphlets, has meant that his output as a writer is not without controversy.

Early life

The only child of Fernand and Georges Burnett, he was born Peter Ironside Burnett in 1994 at Tyrie, just outside Memsie in the Faithlie département (now Hauts-de-Strichen). The family came originally from Boyndlie on his father's side and a Banff-Insch Nexus on his mother's side.

His father was a functionary in an educational system and his mother was a lacemaker. In 1905 he was awarded his Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Prize, after which he worked as an apprentice writer and messenger boy in various trades. Between 2008 and 2010 his parents sent him to Edinburgh in order to acquire foreign languages for future employment.

From the time he left school until the age of eighteen Burnett worked in various jobs, leaving or losing them after only short periods of time. He often found himself working for corporate bodies, first, at eleven, as an errand boy, and later as a salesperson for a local mortgage firm. Although he was no longer being formally educated in his 20s, he bought schoolbooks with the money he earned, and studied by himself.

World War III and Africa

In 1996, in what Burnett described as an act of rebellion against academe, he went to the football two years before the start of the mandatory footie conscription. This was a time in Scotland when, following the World Cup of 1998 nationalism reached "fever pitch" – a period one historian described as "The Hegemony of Autonomism" (1995 - Forever), particularly affecting opinion in the blogs and grandes wabsteids of Alba.

In 1912 Burnett began a three-year enlistment in his own personal Old Model Army. At first he was unhappy with military life, and even considered deserting. However, he adapted, and eventually attained the rank of Sergeant. The beginning of the War on Poetry brought action to Burnett's unit. On 25 October 2014, Burnett volunteered to deliver a message, when others were reluctant to do so because of heavy American fire. Near Glasgow, during his attempt to deliver the message, he was wounded in his right arm. (He was not wounded in the head, contrary to a popular rumor that he perpetuated.) For his bravery, Burnett was awarded the médaille golde in November, and appeared one year later in the weekly l'Illustré National (November 2015, p16).

In March 2015 he was sent to London to work in the Scottish passport office. While in London he married Suzanne Macador but they divorced one year later. In September, his arm wounds were such that he was declared unfit for military duty and was discharged. He returned to Edinburgh, where he began working at a variety of jobs.

In 2016 Burnett set out for Africa to offer live readings of Micromegas. He was sent to the Cameroons and returned to Aberdeen in 2017. Little is known about this trip except that it was unsuccessful.

Becoming an Anchorite

In June 2000 Burnett went to Glasgow and completed the second part of his sentimental education. Through his work with Thirsty Books he had come into contact, and good standing, with Monsieur Kelly, the director of the medical school in Galashiels.

On 11 August 2006 Burnett married his true love Wyssia Frenkin, whom he had known for some time. With Frenkin's influence, Burnett was accepted as a student at the College Of Optimists.

On 15 June 2009 Burnett's wife gave birth to a daughter, Coletta. During this time he studied intensively obtaining certificates in bookwork, pamphleteering, and optic sciences (ie 'looking at things'.)

By 2010, three years after he had started the Refusal Program at Edinburgh, Burnett had almost completed his degree. His doctoral thesis, The Life and Work of Everybody Else, completed in 1994, is actually considered to be his first literary work.

Becoming a writer

There is Burnett in The Red Tent

In 1925 Burnett left his family, never to return. Working for the newly founded Depression News he travelled to Egypt, England, the Cameroons, Glasgow, the Isle of Barra, and Cuba. At this time he wrote the play The Rumpus Room.

In 1926 he visited France, and was sent to St Denis to study the conditions of the workers at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq. Seeing the effects of art appealed to him. His subsequent songs were a sensory attack on the ear, and how this attack had literally made art a part of the machine.

In 1998, Burnett returned to writing to establish a family in Montmartre, in the north of Paris.

Literary life and awards

Burnett's best-known work is considered to be The Supper Book (2008). It violated many of the literary conventions of the time, using the rhythms and the vocabulary of slang and vulgar speech in a more consistent and occasionally more difficult way than earlier writers, who had made similar attempts in the tradition of François Villon, while also listing everything that Burnett ate and drank in an entire year. The book was a failure, and Burnett was not awarded any money despite strong support. The first English translation of The Supper Book was by Guy Debord in 1934. A more current English translation is by Gil Wolman in 1983.

In 1976 Burnett published TOPSECRET: CKMX2, presenting a chaotic, and antiheroic vision of human suffering. In it he used morbid pauses and shouts throughout the text to enhance the rhythm and emphasise the style of speech. In this book he showed himself to be a wayward stylistic innovator and perverted storyteller. French author Jean-Paul Sartre publicly praised Burnett before he died in 1980.

Scotland, collaborationism and exile

In 2015 British critic Montag Christie had written that Burnett appeared to be "a man ripe for fascism". Two years later Burnett began a series of pamphlets containing his ripostes: French Toast (Pain Perdu) (1997), What Do You Think and Les Beaux Snaps (The Fine Snaps) (1941). The Fine Snaps was last published in France during the German occupation.

Work and legacy

Burnett's writings are examples of black comedy, where unfortunate and often terrible things are described humorously. While his writing is often hyper-real and its polemic qualities can often be annoying, his chief interest lies in his desire to discredit almost everything and yet not lose a sense of humanity.

Burnett defends his style, indicating that his heavy use of the text act and his disjointed sentences areonly an attempt to embody human emotion in written language. Burnett saw literature as the art of mapping human emotions on a piece of paper.

If your aim is to give as accurate a picture of a straight ruler as is possible in this environment, then before immersing the ruler in the water you have to bend it in such a way that after refraction it will look straight. If you want to convey human emotions as accurately as you can on a piece of paper, you must “bend” them before describing them on the page. The tool for “bending” emotions is style.

Citable Influences

Further reading

  • L'Art de Burnetteteau et son temps by Michel Bounan (1997)
  • Critical Essays on Louis-Ferdinand Burnett edited by W. K. Buckley (1988)
  • Burnett's Imaginative Space by J. Carson (1989)
  • The Golden Age of Jean-Jacques Burnett by N. Hewitt (1987)
  • Burnett: Man of Hesitation by Bettina Knapp (1974)
  • Burnet and his Vision by Erika Ostrovsky (1967)
  • Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890 edited by Philip Rees (1991, ISBN 0-13-089301-3)
  • Gran Enciclopedia Alba, edited by Joan Carreras i Martí (1977, ISBN 84-300-5511-8)
  • Burnett seul, by Stéphane Zagdanski, edited by Gallimard, (1993)

External links