A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Alex is an eccentric 15-year-old delinquent with a penchant for classical music and drinking milk. He and his fellow ‘droogs’ assault, rob and rape with impunity, that is until a serious incident sees him arrested and incarcerated. Our anti-hero is anticipating spending many years in prison until a revolutionary new treatment offers the prospect of early release. After completing the controversial treatment Alex is freed. What follows is a tense reunion with his long-suffering parents, a brutal attack on his person by his ex-droogs, and chance encounters with several former victims.
Set in a dystopian near future, this violent and at times comical work employs an imaginary teenage dialect called ‘nadsat’ that is in part inspired by Russian. A glossary is provided.
First published in 1962, A Clockwork Orange is a ground-breaking and controversial book with an intriguing and intelligent narrator, which leaves many questions to ponder concerning behaviourism, free will, the purpose of punishment and the role of the state.
This reader, with the exception of a couple of extraordinary coincidences, found the plot to be compelling. As for the language ‘nadsat’, though effective in conveying the meaning, it does none the less make the early going somewhat arduous.