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A vicious fifteen year old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future where criminals take over after dark the story is told by the central character Alex who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil and the meaning of human freedom And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to redeem him the novel asks At what cost?This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction A Clockwork Orange Resucked


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    A Clockwork Orange is one of those books which everyone has heard of but which few people have actually read – mostly I think because it is preceded by a reputation of shocking ultra violence I’m not going to deny here that the book contains violence It features lengthy descriptions of heinous crimes and they’re vivid descriptions full of excitement Burgess later wrote in his autobiography ‘I was sickened by my own excitement at setting it down’ Yet it does not glorify violence nor is it a book about violence per se Rather it’s an exploration of the morality of free will Of whether it is better to choose to be bad than to be conditioned to be good Of alienation and how to deal with the excesses to which such alienation may lead And ultimately of one man’s decision to say goodbye to all that At least in the UK version The American version on which Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation was based ends on a less optimistic note In short it’s a novella of ideas which just happens to contain a fair bit of violenceIt is also quite an artistic and linguistic achievement Those who have seen the film will know that Alex the anti hero and his droogs friends speak a made up language full of Russian loanwords Shakespearean and Biblical influences and Cockney rhyming slang Initially this nadsat language was nearly incomprehensible to me and my first response to it was bad I found myself cursing Burgess telling him that it wasn’t fair to put his readers through something like that If I want to read an incomprehensible book I’ll read Finnegans Wake thank you very much However Burgess takes great care to introduce his new words in an understandable way so after a few pages I got the hang of the nadsat lingo and after a few pages I actually began to enjoy it because I’m enough of a linguist to go in for that sort of thing I found myself loving the Russian loanwords rejoicing when I recognised a German loanword among them and enjoying the Shakespearean quality of Alex’ dialogues I finished the book with an urgent wish to learn Russian and read Shakespeare I doubt many readers will respond to the book in that way not everyone shares my enthusiasm for languages and classical stuff but my point is you’ll get used to the lingo and at some point you’ll begin to admire it because for one thing Burgess is awfully consistent about it and for another it just sounds so damned good I mean if you’re going to come up with a new word for ‘crazy’ you might as well choose bezoomny right? Because it actually sounds mad Doesn’t it?Anyhow there’s to A Clockwork Orange than just philosophical ideas and linguistic pyrotechnics The writing itself is unexpectedly lyrical and not just when it deals with violence Some of the most beautiful passages in the book deal with music More specifically classical music because for all his wicked ways Alex has a passion for classical music He particularly adores Beethoven an adoration I happen to share I came away from the book thinking I might consent to becoming Alex’ devotchka woman wife simply because he is capable of getting carried away by Beethoven’s Ninth and hates having it spoilt for him He’s cultured is Alex and while his culturedness obviously does not equal civilisation and goodness a point he himself is quick to make it does put him a notch above the average hooligan It’s the apparent dichotomy between Alex’ tastes in art and his taste for violence which makes him such an interesting protagonist and which keeps you following his exploits to their not entirely believable but good conclusionIn short then A Clockwork Orange is an excellent book – a bit challenging at first but gripping and interesting and full of style and ideas Not many books can claim as much