A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a dystopian novel published in 1962. Burgess set the novel in the future, but not all that far into the future. He claims that he wrote the novel in three weeks. Wow, three weeks. I wish I could do that. Maybe that will be a challenge I set for myself in the near future.
Back to the novel. Here’s the Goodreads synopsis:
A vicious fifteen-year-old “droog” is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to “redeem” him—the novel asks, “At what cost?”
Yesterday I wrote my review of the movie, A Clockwork Orange, which I watched before reading the novel. The movie disturbed me, but other than left it left me feeling unsure about what I thought of it. After watching it I was extremely curious to read Burgess’s novel to see if I felt the same way.
It turned out to be a good thing that I watched the movie first since it helped me settle into the writing. The author experimented with language and many of the words are Russian-influenced argot called “Nadsat”. Burgess invented Nadsat. He mixed Slavic words, rhyming slang, and Russian. He also made up some words. The first few pages made me cringe. I had no idea what Alex was talking about. Soon I started to follow it and viewing the movie first helped immensely.
I actually enjoyed reading the novel, which shocked the heck out of me. I expected to hate it. There are some disturbing scenes and for the most part Kubrick stayed true to the book. However, the author’s words and tone resonated with me.
From this point on there will be spoilers for the movie and novel. If you don’t want to know, please stop reading.
What I found interesting was that the book’s ending was completely different. Then I did some digging. The first American edition of the novel didn’t include the final chapter since the American publisher wanted to remove the redeeming bit and have the novel end on a more sinister note. The publisher thought it would appeal more to an American audience. Kubrick based his movie on the American edition claiming he didn’t know about the missing chapter until the screenplay was almost complete. When I watched the final scene in the movie I was surprised and wondered if I missed the ending. Did I accidentally nod off? Then I read the novel and thought that it made more sense.
Again, I don’t feel like I can recommend the novel. I said the same thing about the movie. Both have violence and disturbing scenes. People should decide for themselves if they want to read or watch A Clockwork Orange. This is the 79th book I’ve read from the 1001 list. The next review will be In Cold Blood.