Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (Essential.penguin S.) Review

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Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (Essential.penguin S.)
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Kirsty 1's review of Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (Essential.penguin S.)

“nthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange Review: Hello my...”


written by Kirsty 1 on 16/04/2004

Good Points
A marvellous language and a wonderful concept...

Bad Points
Not for the faint-hearted...

General Comments
nthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange Review: Hello my droogs, I want to govoreet to you about Nadsat, so pour yourselves a long cold peet of breakfast moloko or a steaming chasha of chai to go with your eggiwegs and soldiers and I'll begin.

Do you think I've has gone a bit bezoomny? Well you may be right. But before you ookadeet entirely cheeching "gloopy chepooka" let me tell you chellovecks something: I make no appy polly loggy for chumbling along in genuine Nadsat. What's more I won't be giving you a polyclef for every single slovo so no doubt you will soon all be platching in frustration over this oozhassny malenky opinion!

Umm, is there anybody still there? Oh dear, I think I've frightened them all off. Well, I'll explain anyway in the vain hope that somebody takes pity and returns.


Nadsat is the language which the erst-while phonetics lecturer Anthony Burgess created to write his entire novel, A Clockwork Orange. It's a "teen" language and although Burgess does give a glossary of terms at the back of the book, my first two paragraphs are designed to prove just how little the reader needs to refer to it when reading. Perhaps you will find that I have disproved my own theory, but I genuinely found that whilst I didn't always understand the exact meaning of a word when I first came across it I could nearly always get a reasonable approximation in my mind and refine it as a new context came along.


The action of A Clockwork Orange is harsh and damning, following the lives of Alex and his droogs (friends) as they fight, rob, rape and terrify their victims in the first few chapters of the novel. "Little Alex" is fourteen when we first meet him and likes nothing more than some hard drugs in his glass of milk before setting off to enjoy an evenings entertainment: hearing the screams of pain as his boot meets somebody's stomach and watching the red red blood run. When the evening has run its course Alex returns to his bedroom and to the dramatic delights of his favourite composers: to the arms of Mozart and Bach, who can bathe him in glorious sound whilst he dreams about tomorrow nights misdeeds.

Alex is top dog in his little gang, and that's just the way he likes it. Dim is simply too dim to do anything other than hang on his every word but Pete and Geordie have some misgivings and a desire to reach greater criminal heights. Their desire to hit the big time eventually culminates in them deserting Alex mid-old-lady-battering and the rozzers finally get their hands on him.

Outraged at his imprisonment Alex accepts a position as the first to experience Ludovico Technique, a revolutionary new treatment to make hardened criminals "good", in exchange for his freedom two weeks later. During the longest two weeks of his life Alex experiences all the violence he could dream of on screen, played to a backdrop of the music he loved so well


Herein lies the rub: how can you make people "good"? As the Ludovico Technique is to quickly prove, all you can do is to make "bad" people incapable of following their hearts desires. Our "little Alex" is left somewhere between a rock and a hard place: how can this "Clockwork Orange" survive in the outside world? Well that, as they say, would be telling .


Well you can't really love Alex. He's not into crime for the money or the fame, no; he's in it for the sheer enjoyment of violence. Not a particularly endearing character trait. Do we feel pity for him? A more interesting question perhaps, and ultimately I again say no well, no with a big but no BUT one just can't help wanting to know what the hell he is going to do next! There are also surprising moments of hilarity caused by Alex's dead-pan delivery of lines that are simply mad in any normal world but appear straight-forward to him.

As for Alex's droogs, well that ramshackle lot have some interesting futures ahead of them and I just can't bring myself to spoil the plot for you


A Clockwork Orange is a simple little thing really, with one central theme about the nature of "goodness" which is nicely, if simply examined by events. However it is also a short novel with two other major factors vying weightily for attention. Firstly, it is written in a unique language, and secondly it is shockingly and often horrifically violent, most notably during the infamous rape scene which caused the Stanley Kubrick film version to be banned in the UK for so many years.

I have read reviews that damn the novel for its simplistic analysis of the nature of "goodness" but I really do have to stand up in its favour. Simple as the juxtaposition of the good and bad Alex may be, this novel was written in 1962 and is still one of the most original contemporary novels we have. The language alone is a work of remarkable achievement and picks out A Clockwork Orange as a novel that stands alone, and just does not date.


First published in 1962, I have the 1972 Penguin Books edition with the famous "one-eyed man" cover designed by David Pelham which originally retailed for 25p! I bought my copy from an Oxfam bookshop a few weeks ago for £1.95 - I think it's the fifth copy that I am now on so no; I'm not going to lend it to you!


If you viddy a copy in your local biblio and are looking for some soviet on what to do for the best well I don't have to spat on it: I kopat this novel and I think you will too. Get your golly out and treat yourself to a truly zammechat and horrorshow read!

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Mtbab's Response to Kirsty 1's Review

Written on: 14/07/2005

WOW!!! great review, i am studying this and performing it as part of Drama A-level next year, you know how to say something without saying too much, great review, thank you, i cant wait now!!

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