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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on November 20, 2002
This book is a genuinely unique literary experience. Having read some of Burgess other novels, I can only fathom what sort of talent he must have had to completely step outside his own norm in order to adopt a completely unorthodox presentation; focusing strongly on language, humanism, and plot. His other works, Such As "The Doctor Is Sick" showcase his style of using alternate spelling of words to make them sound phoenetically like a certain dialect, where he even "spelled" out lisps in characters who spoke with them, almost as otomotopeia. In "A Clockwork Orange" this device is altered and taken to an extreme; here the words are all new, all unique derivatives of Russian and English syllables combined to form an intuitive language that the reader comes to understand while moving through the novella.
Burgess rationalizes the slang in his introduction of this book, stating that it was meant to make the almost overly-shocking or pornographic nature of it's content seem more acceptable, if that were possible. The slang is very hard to explain and very abstract at first, but once you settle in and get used to Alex's use of it, his words become second nature. That if nothing else is true testament to Burgess' skill in crafting this "nasty little shocker."
To summarize the plot in a few sentences, The story focuses on Alex, a teenager who lives in the near future where the streets are ravaged at night by violence and deviant teenagers. Alex, the main character of the book, is such a teenager, and routinely commits acts of "ultraviolence," including beatings, rapings, burglary, you get the picture. He finally pushes his luck too far and commits an act, and then is incarcerated.
This is just the beginning few events in the novella, and I don't want to ruin the experience should you decide to read it.
This book brings several issues to the reader's attention in terms of how we percieve our own inalienable rights as humans. One of the most important questions this book asks whether we cease to be human when we are stripped of free choice. I'll go no further than this, though I'm only grazing the surface here. Like I said I don't want to ruin the experience for you.
I treasure this book; it is by far one of my favorite three pieces of literature simply because it is daring, psychological, and completely unique in that it teaches a lesson in the most unlikely way imaginable. If you aren't faint of heart, give this one a try, and you may be impressed.
And once you get about 3 quarters of the way through the book, ask yourself if you feel sorry for poor old Alex. You may be surprised at yourself....
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on September 29, 2002
Alex est le mal incarné. Il tue, viole, torture sans autre forme de procès, avec un plaisir vicieux. Il mène une vie de débauche, de soirées d'ultra-violence avec ses trois acolytes, Pierrot, Jo et Momo, jusqu'au jour où ceux-ci le trahissent. Alex est arrêté et incarcéré relativement aux crimes qu'il a commis. En prison, on lui propose une cure, la méthode Ludovico, qui, en quelques semaines, fera du monstre qu'était Alex, un humain fondamentalement bon. Alex accepte immédiatement, voyant un échappatoire rapide à la prison, sans réfléchir aux conséquences d'un tel traitement. Les résultats seront étonnants, mais Alex sera t-il le même homme?...
L'Orange mécanique fait brillamment émerger toute la violence refoulée d'une société dans le personnage d'Alex. Le livre est écrit dans un dialecte surprenant, mais ô combien efficace, nous plongeant littéralement aux côtés de Notre Humble Narrateur, Alex. Le livre lance un débat sur les droits de l'État; peut-il se permettre de conditionner un être humain, sachant que celui-ci perdra la possibilité de faire ses propres choix? Est-il nécessaire d'éradiquer la liberté d'agir d'un homme pour faire de lui un être moral? Là est une des questions fondamentales du roman, qui n'est pas sans rappeler l’inquiétant 1984, écrit par George Orwell.
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on May 29, 2002
By writing A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess created one of the most disturbing novels that I have ever read. It begins with our most humble narrator, Alex, living his teenage years as a drug-addicted bugular and rapist. Alex and his friends commit crimes for fun and see nothing wrong with their incredibly violent ways. When eventually Alex is caught by the police and put in the State Jail, he is entered into a program that will supposedly 'cure' him of his violent actions and allow him to go free. The question is, though, does someone actually become 'good' when their free will to make that choice is taken away? Which is worse: choosing to do wrong or being forced to choose good? Burgess really makes you think about that idea as Alex's life progresses after he goes through the cruel procedure to 'reform' him. I would definitely recommend reading this book to anyone, as long as they are prepared for a lot of violence and gore (as well as Burgess' invented slang that Alex and his friends use - it takes a little while to get used to). What's it going to be then, eh? Go read A Clockwork Orange and get ready to think about a lot of stuff you never have before.
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on May 6, 2002
Anthony Burgess' modern classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE revolves around a central ethical conundrum: is it better to let a violent criminal continue to be disposed to crime than to remove that which essentially makes him human, his free will?
The narrator, a teenager named Alex, is a hoodlum in a near-future where gangs roam the streets and society is decaying. After a string of crimes, Alex is betrayed by his companions and winds up sentenced to over a decade in prison. After two years behind bars, he is given the opportunity to be the subject of a new experimental theraphy, "Ludovico's treatment", which would have him cured and a free man in a mere two weeks. Alex loses his criminal tendencies, but Burgess asks, "At what cost"? After this setup, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE goes on to examine what stripping a person of his free will would mean for him and society.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is also the reaction of a Briton against communist governments, this book was obviously written in the early 1960's. The administration which seeks to tame Alex seems benevolent, but there are signs of growing despotism. In foreboding one passage, a prison official expresses his hope that Alex will leave the prison, as the space will soon be needed for political prisoners. The dialect that Alex's generation speaks, Nadsat, is a mixture of Russian and English words, and shows a Soviet influence on this future England. This makes the book feel somewhat dated, my reason for giving it four stars.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is written in Alex's dialect, and nearly every sentence has Russian words written as they sound to English ears. However, this is rarely a problem, as Burgess gives sufficient context to quickly understand such common words as "glazzies," "pletchoes", "tolchock", and "devotchka". The Russian words are nearly all extremely common anotomical terms, so for those who want to be certain about every word of Nadsat, any small Russian dictionary will do.
Stanley Kubrick's 1972 film of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE went on to become popular, buut be aware that the book is a very different story. Kubrick based his film off the original American edition of the book, which lacks the crucial final chapter in which Burgess reveals a suprising plot turn, which reverses much of what came before. Thus, the book and the movie have totally opposite messages. The book is also more graphic than the movie. While the movie has Alex in a tryst with two teenage girls, the original scene from the book has him molest two ten-year olds after shooting heroin. Thus, for those sensitive to explicit content, the book may be more objectionable than the movie, although the book's thick dialect and sparse detail does not have the force of actually seeing such things in a movie.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE may appeal to those intrigued by the moral dilemma it presents. It is also suprisingly entertaining for new students of Russian, as this reviewer found. If you enjoy A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, I'd recommend going on to Burgess' work 1985, in which he examines George Orwell's work 1984 from a viewpoint closer to that year, this book is somewhat of a continuation of several themes of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.
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on May 5, 2002
A Clockwork Orange is a book of definite motif and an understanding of a life people usually refuse to recognize. Not only was the main character/narrator's, Alex, lifestyle portrayed specifically throughout the novel, it was greatly astounding to be noticed as a life worth meaning and acknowledgement. Alex's life was one of violence, a typical hooligan's life who grows up with gangs and other such bad influences. There is a dramatic change in the course of the novel from it's beginning which keeps the excitement up, because I have to admit, the beginning is redundant with the amount of violence displayed. The twist in the plot is ironic and surprising. There is meaning behind all the slang Borgess speaks with through Alex. If you are a person who is able to find meaning if small areas of life and depict reality from the real world, I suggest this book. It gives one a purpose, a meaning to look for between the lines of this book. It keeps one entertained by creating a desire to know what happens to Alex. The end gives one a sweet sense of satisfation although the ending is nothing you could ever imagine. Enjoy.
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on April 23, 2002
For the most part, there is wildly violent entertainment and then there is remarkably provocative art and seldom do the two overlap. One of those rare occasions is Anthony Burgress� 1962 transgressive classic, A Clockwork Orange. At first, the tale of Alex, a malicious, young degenerate of the future, seems like a warped, little shocker, full of madcap language, malevolent intentions and stomach-turning violence. As the novel progresses, though, it is soon evident that Mr. Burgess is carefully surveying an important subject matter: juvenile delinquency. Through portrayals of Alex�s parents, he comments on Dr. Spock-style principles. Through portrayals of the government and prison system, he comments on what type of society produces these baby-faced killers (One as amoral and creative as the delinquents themselves). And through the main character�s vivid naration he explores the surprisingly human thoughts and motives behind this appalling behavior. Most often when one walks into a theater, turns on the TV or opens a novel and squeems, the said media�s creators are attempting to vend cheap thrills. But not always. Mr. Burgess� brilliant and alarming book and the stunning Stanley Kubrick film based upon it are instances when true artists looked the seedier side of human nature in the face and produced poignant works of art from their observations.
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on March 31, 2002
Can you program an orange, which is appeeling on the outside and full of juicness on the inside, to behave in a clockwork manner. The novel, A Clockwork Orange, firmly states "No!"
Although the main character, Alex, is ultraviolent in manner and his horrorshow activites make readers cringe, it is his choice to behave in this nature, no matter how shocking it may be. Once he becomes programed to behave according to the laws and moral restrants, then he becomes a tool and is manipulated to the point that he is less of a human being.
I'm not going to go into any more specifics of the novel because they have already been firmly stated by previous reviewers. However, I will say that I have not seen the movie version of the novel and frankly do not see how it could acturately portray the author's true intentions without the twenty-first chapter. The final chapter makes the novel, in some sense, an allegory of youth and shows that people are not clockwork--they are not machines that solely follow the forces of good or evil. Instead, people are living beings who do not necessarily follow a set path in life.
A great book. I only wish that I hadn't burned through the whole 192 pages in two days.
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on March 16, 2002
My all time favorite book. Burgess's novel beats the movie 100 x's more (and Kubrick's film happens to be my #1 favorite movie as well so that means I really love this book). The book is alot more sickening and explicit than the film , you really get a feeling of nausea while reading it...and that hasn't happened with any other book i've read. While the film loaded it with artsy filmaking and a bizzare musical score. The book is an energetic bleak look into sadism and ultraviolence. Droogs who violently rape and pillage their community without sympathy and care..just for the sick pleasure of it speak in nadstat style of slang that is very difficult to understand while reading , but it contains a handy glossary. Alex leads this group as the humble narrarator is sent to be reformed by the government in which he can no longer choose violence , but his victims can. Burgess ask "what cost?" and "whats the price we pay for conformity". However unlike the movie , the film's final and until the reissue was ommitted ending features Alex looking back on his life and wanting a family of his own. Through all his tolchoking and nastyness he is human afterall which was the message all along. Alex was human and if he stayed "reformed" he would have been nothing more than "A Clockwork Orange" ripe and healthy on the outside , mechanical and programmed on in the inside..leaving him freedomless and without choice..which the government has no right to do. Very thought provoking work.
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on March 3, 2002
I don't wish to repeat other's already well-articulated praise on style and language and brilliance. The narrative flow and the story itself are confoundedly magnificent. Yes, I too love A Clockwork Orange.
Here is a story of free will versus society; a devastating critique onindividual human nature and an even harsher attack on the ultimately Fascist attitude of any organized system of justice.
In a mildly Science-Fiction-style plot we go forward to the parallel near future where politics have taken over ever aspect of human life. Even thoughts can be controlled and the punishment shall always fit the crime. We, the reader, are forced to choose sides between a violent, anarchist, sociopthic rapist-murder, and the oppressive State Government that will force the mind to suppress thoughts, to suppress all human desire in an effort to make certain that everyone will be safe in their homes, out-of-sight--
The arguments are beautifully placed and here, ten years after I've read it, the passion and power of the debate still lingers, fresh. (On a brief side-note in relation to Kubrick's wonderful film adaptation: I love Stanley Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange is, depending on my mood at the time, perhaps my favorite of his flicks; but the book diverges into even more decadent and intense realms, and forces one to actually experience the events in your mind, not transposed on a visual plate, and you experience the horror even more viscerally than the romanticized extravagence of the film)
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on February 26, 2002
To be frank, this book changed my life. I have never seen the film, but from what I had heard about it I was a bit apprehensive about picking this piece of literature up. But for whatever reason, I did, and I am sure glad of it.
This is the bleakly futuristic tale of Alex, a young droog who loves doing the ultraviolent, razdrazzing others, peeting milk-plus in seedy mestos and slooshying Beethoven. He and his three other droogies wander the streets when the sun goes down, looking for a chance for some twenty-to-one, and rarely are they without a decent find. One fateful noche, however, he is taken by the millicents to the staja where he gets by on his oddy knocky day in and day out.


Written in a beautifully brutal dialect (something of a combination of slang english and russian), Burgess leaves the reader to figure out that Alex, a young hoodlum, loves to rape, kill, drink halucinogen-laced milk, and listen to classical music. However, when he is caught one night, he is taken to prison where he dwells for 2 years. However, he learns of a new treatment that will get him out of jail in a fortnight. This treatment is the creation a connection in his brain between sickness and violence by making him watch violent films (i.e. holocaust documentaries, interestingly enough) after given a shot that makes him yearn to vomit. The state, in all of its arrogance, releases young Alex into a world where his actions come back to haunt him.
Thus, the book asks: is it better to be bad on your own free will, or to be good without free will (a clockwork orange)?
Perhaps one of the most redeeming characteristics of this novel is the likeability of "your humble narrator." Remarkably, Alex is quite a sympathetic character, if you can put aside all of the atrocities he commits nightly. You wholeheartedly root for him until the end, although you are not sure why. I am: it's the magic of Burgess' writing.
If you can stomach a little literary violence and a great philophical quandary, packed in with a message of maturity and hope, this book is for you. And if you can't, go watch Bambi.
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