Book Report: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

If you take the classic British totalitarian works like 1984 and A Brave New World with the Existentialist preoccupation with unsavory protagonists, you have A Clockwork Orange. In a future England whose government and language appear heavily influenced by the Soviets, a young malcreant and his mates (droogs in the cant) spend their evenings committing crimes and ultra-violence for fun and for money. When Alex, the self-styled leader and your humble narrator is caught, he serves time in an overcrowded prison until he is offered an opportunity for early release through a program that brainwashes criminals into avoiding violent acts. When he’s returned to the street, he is at the mercy of those he victimized and his former droogs until some of the opposition party want to use him for their purposes of bringing down the totalitarian government.

One would hope that not too many readers identify closely with the narrator, a thief, thug, rapist, and murderer; however, Burgess uses the language of the narrator to lure the reader in. When you first start, the nadsat lingo one out of the book, but after a while, the reader understands the argot and this understanding has to act as the only bridge, one hopes, between the reader and the sociopathic I speaking.

It’s a short book–180 pages, like they used to write paperback fiction–and a decent enough read that really does carry the flavor of 1960s science fiction, perhaps even British science fiction. Its intersection of Orwell and Sartre, though, have given it its classic status.

Books mentioned in this review:




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