“Iniative comes to thems that wait.”
Apparently on a Kubrick kick this week, I’ve decided to review Anthony Burgess’s infamous novel, though he shrugs it off as one of his lesser works, A Clockwork Orange. I remember picking up the novel in eighth grade, after seeing the cinematic adaptation, and printing out a Nadsat dictionary. After twenty pages of looking up “devotchka” and “vellocet drencrom” I abandoned the guide and let my vocabulary double with Slovak slang.
A Clockwork Orange centers on dystopian London and it’s young inhabitant, Alex DeLarge. Teenage Alex and his friend’s traverse around the now destructed city committing random acts of “ultra-violence” for recreation. All is “swelly-welly” until Alex attempts a bid of leadership amongst his “droogs” only to be double-crossed and arrested during a robbery. When the authorities find out that Alex has killed a woman during the gang’s B & E, he is put in jail.
After beating an inmate to death , Alex is sent to aversion therapy for the new “crime-ending” Ludovico technique. Our protagonist is infected with medicine that sickens him when exposed to any sort of violence. Eager to try out the procedure, high society releases the “cured” Alex into the world.
I won’t ruin the ending for those who have not read the novella or seen the movie, but Burgess does raise any interesting question. Do we accept human aggression as part of human life or erradicate the human condition completely? A moral subject that Burgess examines in many of his books, A Clockwork Orange tends to have a sleeker message than his other writings of the time(with the exception of Honey for the Bears.)
So how does the 1962 novel hold up in 2011? Though first few chapters of the book are quite difficult to grasp, the slang eventually becomes common place and quite enjoyable. Burgess’s message is one that isn’t necessarily outdated, but rather, like most of his works, too subtle. The book does not suffer from this occasional lack of thesis, but rather benefits from the outrageous narrative. I highly suggest the book to fans of Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, as well as enthusiast of Kubrick’s adaptation.