Books: Virgil on the Rock

A VISION OF BATTLEMENTS by Anthony Burgess. 241 pages. Norton. $4.50.

"The Rock." The term has been a designation for many places by men suffering from civic disability—Alcatraz, Guam, Oahu—but the old original Rock was Gibraltar, that whale-headed monolith that was a minor prize and major symbol of the British Empire in its grandest days. Mocked the anti-imperialist Catholic poet Chesterton: "Gibraltar's a rock that you see very plain, and attached to its base is the district of Spain."

Anthony Burgess, also an English Catholic satirist, tells of a painful, three-year tour of duty...