Posts Tagged With: A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange. – Anthony Burgess.

Synopsis: In this nightmare vision of a not-too-distant future, fifteen-year-old Alex and his three friends rob, rape, torture and murder – for fun. Alex is jailed for his vicious crimes and the State undertakes to reform him – but how and at what cost?


Well, here it is, the third finished novel of the year, and by far the strangest book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Although the book deals with some serious issues such as rape, violence and crime – enough to put some people off – I feel that this is a piece of literature that everyone should read. My reasons for this are simple: the novel is thought-provoking, intriguing, and throughout I felt connected with the main protagonist, Alex; a strange thing to say about a fifteen year delinquent who enjoys gang-crime and extreme violent acts, but who also enjoys classical music. Particularly Beethoven’s Ninth.

Some people who will read this novel, will have no sympathy for a mere child who shows no remorse and causes so much hurt and violence to perfectly innocent victims, but as the novel progressed I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who began to sympathise with the troubles that the Government force upon him after he is finally arrested and put in jail for his actions.

Now, I feel it necessary to mention the language used within this novel, as it can be challenging at first to understand. I’ve even know people cast this book away on the principle that they can not get used to the language used; Burgess uses an experimental teenage-slang language at many points during the book. However, I feel that with a little bit of perseverance you can soon begin to deduce what means what, and it doesn’t distract from the plot at all.

Now, in conclusion I imagine that opinion about this novel is divided right down the middle; some will say he got what he deserved, others will disagree. I do know one thing for sure; this novel is one that everyone should read at some point in their lives.


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A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Alex and his three friends’ typical activities at night consist of rape, robbery and violence.  When this finally spills over into murder, the Police catch up with Alex.  He is imprisoned, and subsequently subjected to a form of mind control, which means that he can be returned to society, with no risk to others around him.

Set in an ambiguous and not-too-distant future (although it is worth remembering that the book was written in 1963), the book is written in ‘Nadsat’ – a form of teenage slang used by Alex (the narrator) and his peers.

If there is one book which I think everybody should read, this would be it.  I first read it about 20 years ago, and thought it was due for a re-read.  I appreciated it more second time around.

The nadsat language has a dual role here – it firmly entrenches Alex into his own culture (none of the adults or authority figures in the book use it), and also makes the violence less graphic, meaning that the book is disturbing because of it’s message and not the violence contained within the pages.

This is a book which raises questions of ethics:  Is a man who chooses to be bad better than a man who is forced to do good?  Is it okay to take away individual choice for the good of society?  Does it do any good to only treat the symptoms of a problem, and not the cause?

Despite the violence and disrespect for authority which is shown by Alex and his gang, the most disturbing aspect of this book is the so-called treatment doled out by medical professionals, and people who are supposed to be good.

The nadsat language may put some people off reading this, but in truth, it is not long before you get used to it.  It is obvious what most words mean, either by their context, or by the words they are obviously derived from (for example, ‘apologies’ becomes appy polly loggies’).

A definitely 5/5 for me, and one that I recommend to anybody with an interest in great literature.

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A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Date published: 1962

Summary (taken from blurb):
Fifteen-year-old Alex doesn’t just like ultra-violence – he also enjoys rape, drugs and Beethoven’s Ninth. He and his gang rampage through a dystopian future, hunting for terrible thrills. But when Alex finds himself at the mercy of the state and subject to the ministrations of Dr Brodsky, the government psychologist, he discovers that fun is no longer the order of the day…

The basis for one of the most notorious films ever made, A Clockwork Orange is both a virtuoso performance from an electrifying prose stylist and a serious exploration of the morality of free will.

A Clockwork Orange is a frightening and sad look at a future society in which gangs are rife and no one can be trusted. Not being one that can stomach much in the way of violence and rape, I was a bit wary about reading this book; but my desire to read another dystopian classic won out. There were a couple of disturbing scenes, but it wasn’t too bad overall.

Burgess has done a great job with the language in this book; the narrator, Alex, and his friends (‘droogies’) speak a slang language referred to as ‘nadsat’. If this had a been a made-up language, it probably would have detracted from the story, but Burgess, a linguist, has based a lot of these words in Russian or Cockney rhyming slang. It took a while to get used to (a bit distracting early on) but I found a good translation of nadsat on the web which I referred to when needed. By the end of the book, nadsat had become almost second nature and it was a lot of fun to read.

You would think that Alex would be a very unsympathetic character, and he certainly is, at first. By the middle of the book, however, I found myself feeling very sorry for him, which I suppose can only be understood when you read the book. This is a terrific read and quite touching in some places, and funny in others. Very highly recommended.

Rating: 10/10

Review by Kylie

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