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sirinrob

'A Clockwork Orange' Anthony Burgess

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This a 'Bildungsroman', albeit a very unusual one. Set in a dystopian society, which is an almalgam of 1960's Britain and an Warsaw Pact country ( East Germany springs to mind).

 

The main character Alex is the leader of a gang that indulges in violence against anyone they like. The gang stands apart from society, seeing it as against them.

After several violent escapades, Alex is arrested; his erstwhile gang members leaving him in the lurch. The treatment by the police is as brutal as that handed out by the gang.

 

Convicted Alex ends up as '6655321' in the prison system. Alex curries favour with the chaplain, which affords him some privilege. A new rehabilitation treatment is to be brought in and circumstances conspire that Alex is it's first guinea pig. whilst it means escaping the brutal conditions in the gaol, the treatment itself is dehumanising.

 

On his release, he is shunned by his family, mistreated by the police and used as a pawn by opposing political groups. Eventually he does end up with a well paid job and goes back to his former ways. Then he gets bored with that lifestyle and in a sense matures.

 

I found this a disturbing book. The violence is nasty, even though it is clinically described. The way the authorities deal with Alex is sinister. The sole aim of the treatment seems to be to turn him into a obedient clockwork toy, not a man. The point that Burgess makes is that leading a good life should be a conscious choice of the individual, not something driven by deliberate state manipulation. Alex poses an interesting question early on; the authorities look for the cause of badness, what about the cause of goodness?

 

The use of language is inventive and often amusing, wordplay abounds. Alex speaks 'nadsat ( Russian for teen), a patois based on rhyming slang/ transliterated Russian and invented words. The way Burgess takes Russian words and works them into the text is impressive. Some are used as they are, others are playfully adapted to fit English. The effect of this patois is confusing and disorientating, deliberately so as it conveys the confusion of adolescence very well.

 

The last chapter was cut from the film and the American edition of the book. The American publisher, as did Kubrick, felt that it was bland and not strong enough. Burgess was aggrieved by this arguing it upset the novel's structure, since it is in three parts, each part having seven chapters. Also the intention to show that the way society deals with adolescents, sets up a never ending cycle of conflict is lost. I feel the last chapter makes an important point.

 

This is a thought provoking, challenging read with very inventive use of language.

Edited by sirinrob

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I agree with Burgess as regards the last chapter's important contribution to the overall message of the book and (OCD as I am) sympathise with his annoyance at having the symmetry of his structure messed around with.

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It's quite a few years since I read A Clockwork Orange but it is a book I will definitely read again. It was very interesting to follow Alex's life through all its stages, and I very much enjoyed the use of 'nadsat' throughout.

 

Strangely, I found the violence easier to cope with in the book than in the film - the film, I had to switch off, whereas I was able to keep on reading the book although I well remember how disturbed it made me feel at the time. Unfortunately, that means I am not able to comment on the film, but I do think that leaving out the last chapter of the book would have impacted very negatively on the totality of the structure.

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I've not read the book (something I now aim to correct, if for no other reason than the last chapter comments) but out of interest how good a job did the film do? From your review it seems to have been fairly close. How about putting it on a scale of Poor (e.g. Running man) Vs. best it could do considering the book (e.g. 1984). :D

 

Thanks

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I've not read the book (something I now aim to correct, if for no other reason than the last chapter comments) but out of interest how good a job did the film do? From your review it seems to have been fairly close. How about putting it on a scale of Poor (e.g. Running man) Vs. best it could do considering the book (e.g. 1984). :D

 

Thanks

 

From what I remember the film doesn't really deviate at all from the book. The book is one of the only ones I have ever read more than once, (three times).

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Actually the ending is completely changed in the movie, making for a very different scenario. Perhaps you read the American edition of the book, JCW? In the full version (UK), there is an extra chapter. Kubrick didn't know this when he made the movie because he was working off the US edition. Apparently when he found out he didn't care because he preferred his ending anyway.

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it is a book I will definitely read again
I bow down to your superior stomach - I'm glad I read it as it is a very cleverly crafted piece of fiction which makes many important social points, but I doubt I would have finished it even the once hadn't it been required reading for a uni module.

 

out of interest how good a job did the film do?
I'd give it a 7/10, with the 3 1/10ths deducted purely because the ending was missing - what is there is superbly made, if very difficult to watch.

 

Kubrick didn't know this when he made the movie because he was working off the US edition. Apparently when he found out he didn't care because he preferred his ending anyway.
The conceited :D:smile2:!

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In my review I only mentioned the main points that were made in the book, but there were many other social issues highlighted. I'll read it again at some point.

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I bow down to your superior stomach - I'm glad I read it as it is a very cleverly crafted piece of fiction which makes many important social points, but I doubt I would have finished it even the once hadn't it been required reading for a uni module.

 

I think it's probably because I very rarely actually picture what I am reading, the same reason I don't remember much about books for long after I read them I expect. :lurker:

 

Sirinrob, it would be interesting to hear about what you think of some of the other social issues if you feel like posting about any of them one day.

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