In this nightmare vision of a not-too-distant future, fifteen-year-old Alex and his three friends rob, rape, torture and murder - for fun. Alex is jailed for his vicious crimes and the State undertakes to reform him - but how and at what cost?
Anthony Burgess was born in Manchester in 1917 and studied English at the university there. He was drafted into the army upon graduation in 1940 and spent six years in the Education Corps. After demobilization, he worked first as a college lecturer in Speech and Drama and then as a grammar-school master. From 1954 to 1960 he was an education officer in the Colonial Service, stationed in Malaya and Borneo, and it was while he was there that he started writing The Malayan Trilogy, which is published by Penguin as The Long Day Wanes. In 1959 Burgess was diagnosed as having an inoperable brain tumour and was given less than a year to live. He then became a full-time writer and, proving the doctors wrong, went on to write at least one book a year and hundreds of book reviews right up until his death in 1993.
A late starter in the art of fiction, Anthony Burgess had previously spent much creative energy on music, and in his lifetime he composed many full-scale works for orchestra and other media. His Third Symphony was performed in the USA in 1975 and Blooms of Dublin, his musical version of Joyce's Ulysses, was presented in 1982. He believed that with the fusion of the musical and literary forms lay a possible future for the novel. The Enderby novels: Inside Mr Enderby, Enderby Outside, The Clockwork Testament and Enderby's Dark Lady, are also published in Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics as The Complete Enderby. His many other works include Tremor of Intent; Honey for the Bears; Urgent Copy; Nothing Like the Sun; Man of Nazareth, the basis of his successful TV script Jesus of Nazareth; Earthly Powers, which was voted the best foreign novel of 1980 in France; The End of the World News; The Kingdom of the Wicked, winner of the Prix Europa in Geneva; The Piano Players; Any Old Iron; A Mouthful of Air; Homage to QWERTYUIOP, an anthology of his reviews and journalism; and two volumes of autobiography: Little Wilson and Big God, which was awarded the J. R. Ackerley Prize for 1988, and You've Had Your Time. His last novel, published in the spring of 1993, was A Dead Man in Deptford, based around the murder of Christopher Marlowe.
Anthony Burgess died in November 1993, and is survived by his second wife and his son. The Times described him as 'one of the cleverest and most original writers of his generation', and among the many people who paid him tribute were David Lodge, who considered him 'an inspiration and example to other writers', and John Updike, who believed that 'the literary world seems much more sparsely populated with Anthony Burgess gone. He had the energy and the wide-ranging interests of a dozen writers ... [and] seemed not only a prodigious intellect, but an affectionate spirit, whose mind, like Ariel's, circled the globe in a few seconds.'--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Firstly, as most everyone knows 'A Clockwork Orange' is a futuristic story about a sadistic teenager causing havoc with his equally disturbing mates. His behaviour is vile, with this futuristic society being portrayed as an ultra-violent hell. Fortunately he is caught, imprisoned, then undergoes 'treatment' to cure him of his violent obsessions. The story flows well, with both the characterizations and the description of this future world being very believable.
However it is Burgess's creative use of inventive gang-land slang which makes this book most memorable. Of course initially it is all rather confusing, but after a bit it is rather easy to follow. One is simply left over-awed at the author's ability to get away with such creativity - I imagine his publishers (back in the early 1960s) were rather disturbed at Burgess's creation.
Bottom line: violent, shocking and unforgettable. While not for the squeamish, most everyone will be impressed with 'A Clockwork Orange' - regardless if they've seen the film.