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Old 09-11-2016, 01:27 PM
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FelixSH FelixSH is offline
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Default Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange

More than ten years ago, I read the German version of A Clockwork Orange. It was part of a series of Sci-Fi masterpieces. Hard to read at first, because of the slang, and I think the translation itself wasn't that great. Despite having a thing for dystopias I didn't like it that much.

Recently I found the English version, and decided to read it after finishing 2001 last week. I enjoyed it a lot (well, enjoyed might not be the right word, but it was really good) and have a lot of thoughts about it now. I also want to watch the movie and talk about that later on. Also, has anyone read anything else by Burgess? Has he written other worthwhile books?

First thing that comes to mind is, of course, the slang Alex uses. It's interesting how it makes the beginning of the book really hard to read, but, even without any glossary, it gets easier and easier to understand. It's also helpful, insofar that it makes the horrible things Alex does easier to read about. The things that are described are insanely awful and hard to stomach, and not being able to understand every detail probably helped me a lot. I can't deal with violence that well.

There seems something deeply wrong with the society in the novel. We don't get that many informations about it, it feels like our own where stuff just escalated and is near a sort of explosion. We have the brutal youth groups, who enjoy brutality for brutalities sake, but I felt like the book makes the case that that isn't necessarily the fault of the teens, and more of the society.

The most obvious reasons for my argument are the police that gets more and more brutal, but that could be just a necessary (?) reaction to the increased criminality. This could also be said about the technique that is used on Alex. Criminality gets worse, so the reaction of the state does too. But there is more.

Alex parents, for example, are pathetic. During most of the book they can be interpreted as victims. Alex is a monster, and it is implied that he did horrible things to his parents (which I don't even want to start to think about. With all the awful stuff he does, this hits me the most. Parents who are terrorized by their son is a horrible scenario to imagine). Maybe they are not able to defend themself against this stuff. And maybe they couldn't help it, because society is just awful. But at the end, they want him to come back, at every cost. They had every right to throw him out and stop caring about him.
There is also the part where Alex explains that he made it clear to his parents that he will listen to his music, when and as loud as he wants, I guess with the use of force, or at least threats. But instead of talking to him, his father just hit the wall. Maybe I'm overreading this, but it might show that the father used force at Alex too, teaching him about this stuff.

Also, Alex might be a sociopath, but he can't be the only one. The book implies that there are a lot of teenagers wo act that way. Alex seems to be just one of many. This doesn't excuse Alex's behaviour, but it means that there is something deeply rotten within the whole society.

My last point here is the way politics work. We have the ruling party, which goes more and more totalitarian. Making it a law that everyone has to work is questionable, there are supposed to be more political prisoners later on and I already mentioned the police. But the other party isn't any better, as seen in the third part and how they abuse Alex just to get their goal. Politics is horribly radicalised, and the parties fight dirty. Interesting also that even at the end, where I asumed the other party to be in charge, the police hadn't changed to be more civilized again.

In summary, the teenagers this society produces is a product of the awful situation, and instead of dealing the the root of the problem, the state doubles down on its errors.

Before I stop for now, I want to talk about Alex a bit. I guess we are supposed to feel sorry for him ind the second and third part of the book? If that's the case, it didn't work for me. After all the horrible stuff he did I didn't care for him specifically at all. The only thing I wanted was for him to stop terrorizing other people. When I first read it, I was clearly with he book: No matter how awful a person is, the state has no right to violate a person in that way. Eh, I actually still think that, but with Alex as the protagonist there is just no sympathy left from me.
I dunno, the way I interpret everything, I see Alex as a victim, created from a corrupt society, so maybe I should have more pity with him. The way he was tortured to go suicidal in part three is of course inexcusable, and the whole torture in part 2 is very questionable. But I think of it more as "The state shouldn't do this" and less as "Alex shouldn't suffer that way".

Ok, that's enough for now. I will write more later, but for now it would be interesting to get some thoughts from other people.
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Old 09-11-2016, 02:45 PM
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I have many thoughts on A Clockwork Orange, but as I'm posting from a phone with bandaged fingers, I'll take some time to get them ready to share. Love that book. In terms of Burgess's other work, my dad loves the Enderby novels (I've not gotten around to them yet).

From my own reading, The Wanting Seed is an interesting response to Huxley's Brave New World, though slight. It hasn't stayed with me much in the last ten years or so. Earthly Powers, though, is a very long and dense novel detailing Burgess's complicated relationship with his Catholicism, acting as both an apologia and critique of the Church in the twentieth century. I loved it, and am still thinking about parts of it over ten years later.

The rest of his work is largely unknown to me, but ecclectic. He was a Beethoven scholar and opera librettist and conductor as well, and apparently hated his political speculative fictions in his later life, but he wrote beautifully in the thousand or so pages of his work I've read.

TL;DR: Earthly Powers is real good, and The Wanting Seed is okay.
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Old 09-11-2016, 03:05 PM
Dizzy Dizzy is offline
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I think I've said all this before: A Clockwork Orange was one of the greatest reading experiences of my small, pathetic life.

You experience Alex's growth from sadistic youth to tranquil elder through language, and all the while Burgess weaves his theme of Free Will vs. State Intervention.

I consider it a work of "avant-conservatism," where radical literary techniques (and imagery) is used in the service of conservative ideas (of the classical liberal variety).

It's one of the few works of fiction I can think of where everything comes together and can only be experienced as literature. Kubrick's adaptation is its own separate thing.

I never read anything else by Burgess except Homage to Qwert Yuiop which has some good essays.
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Old 09-12-2016, 08:50 AM
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I love this book, though I agree with Kubrick's decision to excise the 21st chapter where Alex is just ok now, having survived his own depredations. Boys will be boys? I don't think that is supported by the preceding text. The language, Nadsat, is excellent and you are correct how you pick it up through context. Viddy well.

I also read Kingdom Of The Wicked, which is about the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. It was reverse engineered from a TV series he worked on. I 100% recommend.
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Old 09-12-2016, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chud_666 View Post
I love this book, though I agree with Kubrick's decision to excise the 21st chapter where Alex is just ok now, having survived his own depredations. Boys will be boys? I don't think that is supported by the preceding text. The language, Nadsat, is excellent and you are correct how you pick it up through context. Viddy well.
I thought he had only read the American edition and wasn't aware of the 21st chapter until late into production.

EDIT: Apparently the soundtrack was scored by a transwoman. Awesome Real horrorshow!
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Old 09-12-2016, 12:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Büge View Post
I thought he had only read the American edition and wasn't aware of the 21st chapter until late into production.

EDIT: Apparently the soundtrack was scored by a transwoman. Awesome Real horrorshow!
True. But he talked to Burgess about it and decided "fuck it". I agree.

The soundtrack is unreal.
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Old 01-11-2017, 02:16 AM
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Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
I consider it a work of "avant-conservatism," where radical literary techniques (and imagery) is used in the service of conservative ideas (of the classical liberal variety).
Late response but I want to point out this specific comment for giving words to a concept I've been thinking about for a very long time, but hardly ever seen discussed in any venue, in regards to literature and popular fiction. I think this could also be described as "postmodern conservatism" (or maybe "neoconservatism") - a brand of political, philosophical and literary thought which incorporates postmodernism's critiques against the aesthetic, moral, epistemological, etc. dogmas of Western culture and then goes one step further to reconstruct and reaffirm (what are determined to be) the essential core values of Western civilization, in light of those critiques.

I think it's analogous to existentialists who have sought to reaffirm the value of religious faith and spirituality in light of the critiques posed by Enlightenment-era rationalism and nihilism: that the materiality of the world, and the moral and epistemic vacuity of the material, reinforce rather than dismantle the essence of faith. Coming to terms with America's histories of oppression and bloodshed reinforces the triumph and necessity of classical liberalism; accepting multiculturalism's array of group identities reinforces the significance of a shared national identity; accepting the malleability and relativity of values and morals reinforces the responsibility of individuals and communities to uphold an uncompromising moral code; etc. etc. (When I describe it this way it makes the idea sound redundant or recursive, but as in the case of A Clockwork Orange the medium can just as easily be a rejection of established forms, another step forward in a dialectic rather than the reiteration of a previous idea, a radical new proposal for how to realize old values.)

In addition to Burgess, I think there are a number of popular works both "highbrow" and commercial that could be described as embodying this line of thought: the novels of Cormac McCarthy; the films of the Coen brothers; TV series like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad or even (especially?) South Park; even comics and anime like Calvin & Hobbes or Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Also, uhhh... yeah A Clockwork Orange is one of my favorite books, and the film is my favorite Kubrick film which is no small thing for me to say. I could go on and on about it but I should probably stop here
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