Book 65 – A Clockwork Orange

Book – A Clockwork Orange
Author – Anthony Burgess
Year – 1962
Genre – Dystopian Fiction

For no particular reason (well, except for a Book Club 10 for a fiver deal, and a coincidental theme in the charity shops) I have recently acquired a lot of books which later became massive films.  Being the kind of person who doesn’t have the required patience to sit through films all that often, very few of them are based on films that I have seen, however having now read A Clockwork Orange, I definitely hope to get a hold of this one.

The film version was famously banned in Britain for around thirty yeas due to the graphic representations of violence, and that in itself is surely a major reason for many people’s desire to watch the film nowadays.  From the book, I can definitely see how the film could be packed full of horrifying violence, and yet the book goes so much further than sensationalism such as that, and manages to build up a character who is as close to evil as it is humanly possible to be, arrogant and dislikable to boot, and yet still not an entirely unsympathetic character.  Our antagonist/protagonist, Alex, hurts, steals and rapes for kicks, all with a smile and a sneer, yet manages to say more about the direction of society than of himself as an individual.

The most striking part of the book is the language.  It is written in the first person, and in a dialect called Nadsat – a mixture of English, Russian and Carney – which replaces a great many words – your head becomes your gulliver, your hands your rookers, a laugh a smeck and so forth.  For the first half dozen pages, this is massively confusing and I thought I was going to get bored and drop out of the book.  However, it then becomes second nature, and you can read this strange made up language with little difficulty, and as much fluency as any other book – and a fair bit easier than some of the books in this challenge so far this year.

The last interesting note that I have found out about A Clockwork Orange is that the final chapter (no spoilers here!) was omitted from the American version – against Burgess’ wishes.  When Stanley Kubrick came to adapt the book for the screen, he had not read this additional chapter, and indeed was unaware of its existence until after the film had come out.  Thus many people think that the original final chapter was added afterwards, when in fact it is the defining point of Burgess’ point.  True story.


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