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(A Chris Must-Read)
When reading this A Clockwork Orange, many people quickly remember the film of the same name by Stanley Kubrick. This is unfortunate as it led to people avoiding the 1962 book, especially as the first few chapters are difficult to comprehend. But hang in there, brothers and sisters, because Burgess is one of the most talented writers of all time.
Like most of the greatest works of fiction, A Clockwork Orange is set in a dystopian future with the main character, Alex, and his small gang of droogs. There in lies the key to the novel; many words are new (nadsat) to give the story an edge over most of its kind, and these are often derived from Russian.
The reason behind initial difficulty can be linked to the unfamiliar terms Alex (the main character) uses to describe his thoughts and environment. For example, the aforementioned ‘droogs’ means friends.
With passages of rape, torture, ultra-violence, gore and drugs, this English future is extremely bleak with youth in revolt.
Told through Alex’s perspective, we are given a vacation into the mind of a psychotic fifteen year-old that rather enjoys his surroundings and events. But the self-pleasantness soon faces a theme of fear; brainwashing.
Why should you read the book and not watch the movie, you ask?
Well I’d recommend you do both, but definitely read the book first. Nothing compares to the style and insight given to readers by Burgess’ creation, and one will better understand the language through reading passage after passage of hate and brutality.
The enjoyable aspect of Alex is that he’s actually intelligent, with a love of classical music and the traits of a leader. While the first few chapters see him take drugs, assault a scholar, rob and destroy a shop and fight a rival gang, Alex remains likeable in the way he addresses his audience. The rape of two ten year-old girls is one of the most challenging sections of a book ever written.
It’s important to note that despite the harsh themes imposed on readers, there are also strong examples of power, free will, morality, transformation and communication in an exaggerated future.
Some find it inspirational, others depressing, and there is the rare sick person who thrives in its existence. But know this; Burgess himself was annoyed that his most horrific and challenging tale became his most celebrated.
“And, my brothers, it was real satisfaction to me to waltz–left two three, right two three–and carve left cheeky and right cheeky, so that like two curtains of blood seemed to pour out at the same time, one on either side of his fat filthy oily snout in the winter starlight. Down this blood poured in like red curtains.”
So go, my droogs, and get this in your gulliver. You’ll find a real horrorshow chelloveck facing a malenky cheepooka. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.