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A Clockwork Orange Paperback – April 17, 1995
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“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.”
“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
About the Author
Anthony Burgess (1917–1993) is the author of many works, including A Clockwork Orange, The Wanting Seed, Nothing Like the Sun, Honey for the Bears, The Long Day Wanes, The Doctor Is Sick, and ReJoyce.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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The language used develops within the story itself and can take a minute to warm up to. The slang that Burgess invented for this novel is not explicitly defined for the reader and some of these words can take a few uses to catch on to, or did for me at least.
This is a book to buy, not just borrow from the library or a friend because it gets better and the meaning deeper with each re-read. It is one that I have had since high-school and still go back to every few years and get something else out of it.
**Trigger Warning/Content Warning** This book does contain ultra-violence and one scene is of a sexually violent nature. For me it was certainly not enough to negate the overall experience of the novel, but for some who are exceptionally upset by this it may be.
Although the superficial perusal may reveal simply a complex plot involving evel-ish protagonist -- "Little Alex," a somewhat deeper look at the author and social issues involved at the time of the novel's writing will reveal a complex lace of multiple subplots and ideas.
Something to consider: for a long time Anthony Burgess was a member of Her Majesty's Secret Service. Despite long assignments to Far East and Middle Eastern countries, Anthony Burgess' specialty was Eastern Europe and Slavic languages. Hence the language of the "hood" in this novel: "Nadzet" -- translated as "teen." (e.g. triNADZAT' " = 13; chetirNADZAT'= 14, etc...). Why do the major characters speak this lingo? Well the simple answer is that they are teenagers themselves. Hence the angst, aggressiveness, unbridled sexuality, the ugly behaviour, etc...
Something else to consider: why pepper the novel with Slavonic root-words? Why not use Arabic, French, or German? Possible answer: To those "in the know," it may have looked as if there may have been a small but real chance that good old England may go Red (Philby, Burgess (different and unrelated Guy Burgess), and McLean have just defected [not in that order, of course]; the students and the unions are taking over the streets; Soviets are going into space and are arming every anti-colonial movement possible; etc, etc, etc.) As a specialist on Eastern Europe, Burgess had deep knowledge of miserable life behind the Iron Curtain, which he masterfully recreated in and transposed upon Great Britain in the "Clockwork."
Trivia 1: it is rumored that while posted in Egypt, Burgess had a nervous breakdown. This led to his resignation from working for the Crown and the beginning of his literary career (this was brought up in several media interviews with the author later in his writing career).
Trivia 2: the original printing of the book differed greatly between the US and the UK versions as the American Version lacked the final chapter of the book! It is unclear why, but the readers in the U.S. had to wait until 1972 to read the book in full.
Trivia 3: the superb film adaption of the plot by Stanley Kubrick (the one that stars young Malcolm McDowell in the title role) was based on the American and NOT UK version, therefore it (the movie) lacks an absolutely key point of the book obvious to the reader in the last chapter of the original "Clockwork Orange."
Trivia 4: No connection was ever made between Guy Burgess (the Secret Service man who defected to the USSR) and Anthony Burgess (Secret Service man who had a nervous breakdown and then wrote this book). As far as I know not even the most paranoid counterintel John Bull has ever raised that question. Hm... Now that I see it written down,,, I wonder...
Overall, this is one of my most favourite books ever!