Book Review: A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

A modern classic, known globally for it’s shocking scenes of ultra-violence, this story has become something of a cult piece of literature and film. Stanley Kubrick’s film version of this novel(ella) is a truly brilliant production and I would advise you watch it, but this article isn’t on the originally X-rated film, rather the book that my Media Studies teacher very kindly lended me.

Written in 1962, it’s set in a rather near and unfamiliar future – the protagonist, Alex, is a typical Nadsat (teenager) growing up in the world. The book’s split into three parts, the first part describing Alex’s day to day life: skipping school and taking part in “lashings of ultra-violence.” In the next part, he’s put into a prison for his crimes, and the state gives it a good go at reforming him. I will let the last part to the imagination for the moment, as not to spoil it for those of you who are going to actually  read this book.

What is interesting about Burgess’ nightmare vision of youth culture is his very clever play on the English language & the was that youth uses dialect and slang. He’s created his own language calledNadsat, for which teenagers use as a kind of slang – veck means person, for example. Now, this put me off reading the book originally as it’s based closely on the Russian language, which I know nothing of, but after my teacher insisted I read this I thought I’d better. But, after reading this book for around 10 minutes, you (and much to your surprise) actually get your head around this language. A lot of it can be worked out by context, and you will feel intelligent by the end when you can translate this language to standard English!

The 1st person narrative and the way Alex talks directly to the reader O my brother, my friend,  forces you to view this story in a much more personal way. Despite the explicit and shocking things Alex does, you do get attached to the young boy pf only 15! He explains why he likes to be so violent, and it actually made sense to me, yet it is no way a plausible reason for violence in any form. It opened my eyes to the way of free-will and how nobody is “clockwork;” they run on their own mind and will.

Before I get too deep in the whole metaphor of A Clockwork Orange and it’s social and political statements, I’d better wrap up this review. I did really enjoy this short book and would read it again. Don’t be put off by the Nadsat language, like I was originally, because it’s refreshing to see somebody doing something different. However, I warn, this book is not for the feint hearted and if you didn’t like the film, you will not like the book. Likewise: fan or the film, read the book! “Every generation should discover this book” – Time Out – I have, and I loved it!


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