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A Clockwork Orange Paperback – April 17, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It may be a sign of a great work that it can be misinterpreted by detractors and proponents alike. Contemporary readers who saw Burgess’ 1962 dystopian novel as a celebration of youth violence were as far off base as the teens since then who have thrilled to the transgressive violence it—or, at least, Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation—depicts. But paradox is at the heart of this book, as this newly restored, fiftieth-anniversary edition makes more clear than ever. Narrated by Alex, a teenage dandy who revels in language (he speaks a slang called Nadsat), music (especially Bach and Beethoven), and violence, especially violence. When imprisoned for murder, he is offered a chance at reform and leaps at it—but the reform turns out to be brainwashing, an aversion therapy that, alas, leaves him able to enjoy neither beatings nor Beethoven. Upon his release he becomes first a victim of his victims, then a cause célèbre of antigovernment activists before . . . well, publishers offered different endings to British and American audiences, as readers will discover here. What makes A Clockwork Orange so challenging, besides the language (“He looked a malenky bit poogly when he viddied the four of us”), is Burgess’ willingness to use an unsympathetic protagonist to make his point, which is essentially that it may be better to choose evil than to be forced to be good. (For, as it is put by two different characters: “When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.”) Readers can revisit or discover a classic that, while drawing from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, has in turn influenced authors from Irvine Welsh to Suzanne Collins. Extras include a thoughtful introduction by editor Andrew Biswell, reproductions of manuscript pages annotated by Burgess, and a previously unpublished chapter of a book that was to have been called The Clockwork Condition, in which Burgess intended to set the record straight about his intentions now that Kubrick’s film adaptation had made him famous. Readers will learn much, including the meaning behind the book’s title. All in all, a fitting publication of a book that remains just as shocking and thought provoking as ever. --Keir Graff --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


A brilliant novel... a savage satire on the distortions of the single and collective minds. (New York Times)

Looks like a nasty little shocker, but is really that rare thing in English letters: a philosophical novel. (Time)

I do not know of any other writer who has done as much with language as Mr. Burgess has done here ― the fact that this is also a very funny book may pass unnoticed. (William S. Burroughs)

A terrifying and marvelous book. (Roald Dahl)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 213 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393312836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393312836
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,019 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anthony Burgess (25th February 1917-22nd November 1993) was one of the UK's leading academics and most respected literary figures. A prolific author, during his writing career Burgess found success as a novelist, critic, composer, playwright, screenwriter, travel writer, essayist, poet and librettist, as well as working as a translator, broadcaster, linguist and educationalist. His fiction also includes NOTHING LIKE THE SUN, a recreation of Shakespeare's love-life, but he is perhaps most famous for the complex and controversial novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, exploring the nature of evil. Born in Manchester, he spent time living in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in England, until his death in 1993.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

452 of 475 people found the following review helpful By M. Smitherman on November 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
After reading the many reviews that have been posted here, I'm afraid mine will not be as eloquent, nor will it be a long and detailed description of the book. However, I might be able to express the importance of this book, and perhaps you'll even want to read it when you've finished my review.
I may have started out reading A Clockwork Orange because my friend told me how good it was. And then I continued to read it because it was engaging, disturbing, and thought provoking. Even though the book was written over 30 years ago, I believe it is still as powerful today as it was back then; perhaps even more so. Alex, the protagonist, is almost innocently committing violent crimes with his friends; for he isn't -trying- to be bad, he just is. He likes violence, and that's the way he is.
When Alex's friends gang up on him and leave him to be arrested by the police, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison. But then the opportunity to change presents itself to Alex, and he can't help but take the offer. Without ruining the story as so many previous reviewers have already done, I can say that when everything is said and done, important questions arise: is being good truly good if it is not by choice? Is it good to be bad, if that is what one chooses?
The book first came out in the 60s, and the American version lacked the last and 21st chapter from the original story. When it was republished, the book had the 21st chapter. Depending on which copy you read, with the last chapter or without it, the book will have an entirely different feel to it. The old copy represents the horrible realization that bad minds are always bad; the newer version leaves the reader with hope. Hope for Alex, and hope for oneself. Change is possible, the book says, no matter what sort of person you are.
A Clockwork Orange is truly a great work, one that will appeal to people for different reasons; and affect them in completely different ways. But it will affect them.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Cameron Ruatta on May 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
A Clockwork Orange is the story of good and evil and the value of choice. The main character, is a 15 year old lad named Alex whose life consists of crime, cruelty, and recklessness. After being betrayed by an accomplice, he is sentenced to prison where he volunteers for a program that corrects the seemingly uncorrectable. Only then does he being to suffer the consequences of his crash and burn lifestyle.
A Clockwork Orange is what I believe to be a fabulous novel. It may confuse a reader at the start because of the language, but its not that hard to understand the slang dialect if you have a firm grasp on English and are a few pages into the book. Also, one must be patient when reading it because the main ideas aren't revealed until later in the novel. There is a lot of building up the characters before hand, which is valuable information but may bore those who are already have a distaste for the book's violent nature. I also highly recommend that you read the British version because the last or 21st chapter is quite important.
Anyways, the book is more oriented those who can see past the gore and sex and can grasp the main ideas the author is trying to convey through a clockwork orange.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have tried to write a review of this book at least ten times, but I can never seem to find the right way to describe it. This is mainly because I consider A Clockwork Orange to be one of the most painful, brilliant, and disturbing stories ever to be put down on paper. The invented slang used by Alex and his "droogs" is one of the best parts of the book. You'd think that the slang would make it confusing to read, but it doesn't! In fact, it's strangely catchy. They call it "nadsat" and it's a kind of Russified English. And I don't even speak Russian. (Burgess later invented "caveman speak" in Quest For Fire.)
The basic plot follows Alex and his gang of sadistic young punks as they run amok, beating, raping, and murdering with gleeful abandon in the London of the near-future. They then retire to a bar to drink drug-enhanced milk and plot their next crime. Eventually, Alex gets caught and is subjected to the will of the State. He's forcibly deprogrammed with the "Ludovico Technique" in which he's strapped to a chair, his eyelids held open by metal clamps, and forced to watch a long movie of non-stop murder, rape, torture, and other horrible violence until he gets physically ill at the mere thought of such acts. Then he is thrown back on the streets, a declawed kitten at the mercy of his former victims. The American re-edition is published with the controversial twenty-first chapter not included in Kubrick's film, plus an introduction by the author called "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."
Unfortunately, it's a sad reflection on society in that Alex was shunned because of his violence, and when caught, had violence inflicted on him in order to make him stop. This extremely graphic novel received mixed reactions, either hailed as genius or dismissed as violent pornography. I would recommend the movie as well; it's visually inventive and a must-see from one of the world's greatest directors.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on March 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
Fans of Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED will no doubt disagree with me here, but _A Clockwork Orange_ may be the most remarkable man-against-the-State story ever published. Anthony Burgess's approach is in one significant sense the opposite of Rand's: where she tried to project a hero (and in my opinion failed; John Galt seems to be little more than a one-dimensional abstraction), Burgess projects a thoroughly depraved teenager and forces us to root for him anyway. It's not every author who can make you watch a bunch of gratuitous sex'n'violence and _then_ conclude that even great moral depravity trumps behavioristic psychology and mechanistic determinism.

What "protagonist" (or Your Humble Narrator, at any rate) Alex does in the first half of the novel will make you ill. But what the State does to him to "cure" him makes his nadsat gang violence seem almost . . . well, "innocent" isn't quite the right word, but the fact that I'm even thinking of that word is an indication of Anthony Burgess's power.

For Burgess, the important thing is moral choice, and the possibility of choice entails the possibility of evil. Once Alex has been "reformed" by the very latest techniques of behavioristic science, it's no longer even _possible_ for him to be moral -- and that's somehow more horrible than any of his own horrible acts.

But Burgess stops short of making volition an object of idolatry. In the first place, he doesn't make any argument that Alex's actions were somehow "good" merely because he had _chosen_ them; quite the contrary. In the second place, even though Alex bears the full blame for all his depraved actions, there are hints scattered throughout the book that if he weren't living in a "socialist paradise," he just wouldn't have been acting this way in the first place.
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