This is a fully restored edition of Anthony Burgess’ original text of A Clockwork Orange, with a glossary of the teen slang ‘Nadsat’, explanatory notes, pages from the original typescript, interviews, articles and reviews.
”It is a horrorshow story…”
Fifteen-year-old Alex likes lashings of ultraviolence. He and his gang of friends rob, kill and rape their way through a
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it was amazing
people who don’t mind a bit of a challenge
A Clockwork Orange is one of those books which everyone has heard of but which few people have actually read –- mostly, I think, because it is preceded by a reputation of shocking ultra-violence. I’m not going to deny here that the book contains violence. It features lengthy descriptions of heinous crimes, and they’re vivid descriptions, full of excitement. (Burgess later wrote in his autobiography: ‘I was sickened by my own excitement at setting it down.’) Yet it does not glorify violence, nor
It is also quite an artistic and linguistic achievement. Those who have seen the film will know that Alex (the anti-hero) and his droogs (friends) speak a made-up language full of Russian loanwords, Shakespearean and Biblical influences and Cockney rhyming slang. Initially this nadsat language was nearly incomprehensible to me, and my first response to it was bad. I found myself cursing Burgess, telling him that it wasn’t fair to put his readers through something like that. (If I want to read an incomprehensible book, I’ll read Finnegans Wake, thank you very much.) However, Burgess takes great care to introduce his new words in an understandable way, so after a few pages I got the hang of the nadsat lingo, and after a few more pages I actually began to enjoy it, because I’m enough of a linguist to go in for that sort of thing. I found myself loving the Russian loanwords, rejoicing when I recognised a German loanword among them and enjoying the Shakespearean quality of Alex’ dialogues. I finished the book with an urgent wish to learn Russian and read more Shakespeare. I doubt many readers will respond to the book in that way (not everyone shares my enthusiasm for languages and classical stuff), but my point is: you’ll get used to the lingo, and at some point you’ll begin to admire it, because for one thing, Burgess is awfully consistent about it, and for another, it just sounds so damned good. I mean, if you’re going to come up with a new word for ‘crazy’, you might as well choose bezoomny, right? Because it actually sounds mad. Doesn’t it?
Anyhow, there’s more to A Clockwork Orange than just philosophical ideas and linguistic pyrotechnics. The writing itself is unexpectedly lyrical, and not just when it deals with violence. Some of the most beautiful passages in the book deal with music. More specifically, classical music, because for all his wicked ways, Alex has a passion for classical music. He particularly adores Beethoven, an adoration I happen to share. I came away from the book thinking I might consent to becoming Alex’ devotchka (woman, wife) simply because he is capable of getting carried away by Beethoven’s Ninth and hates having it spoilt for him. He’s cultured, is Alex, and while his culturedness obviously does not equal civilisation and goodness (a point he himself is quick to make), it does put him a notch above the average hooligan. It’s the apparent dichotomy between Alex’ tastes in art and his taste for violence which makes him such an interesting protagonist and which keeps you following his exploits to their not entirely believable (but good) conclusion.
In short, then, A Clockwork Orange is an excellent book –- a bit challenging at first, but gripping and interesting and full of style and ideas. Not many books can claim as much.