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A Clockwork Orange ()

New York Public Library's Books of the Century

Alex is a 15 year old hooligan in a nightmarish England of the future.  He and his droogs (fellow delinquents) roam the streets at night performing acts of untraviolence and the old in-out, then retire to milk bars and listen to classical music.  Eventually Alex is captured by the authorities and undergoes Ludovico's Technique, a form of brainwashing that makes him ill when he considers violence.

The most original feature of this book is, of course, the language that Burgess created for his characters.  It's sort of a bastardized Slavic slang.  It makes it hard to orient yourself at first, but most of the vocabulary can be gleaned from context.

What makes the book great is it's recognition of the central dilemma of man's existence--"Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness?  Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has good imposed upon him?"   Burgess concludes, as I think one must, that it is better to have the choice of good or evil, than to have a society which controls its citizens so completely that "good behavior" is imposed from without.


Grade: (A)


Anthony Burgess Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Anthony Burgess
-ESSAY: Literary Friends to Enemies: Why Graham Greene Hated Anthony Burgess: Michael Mewshaw on the Animosity Between Two Giants of 20th-Century British Literature (Michael Mewshaw, June 9, 2023, LitHub)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: ‘Don’t read Clockwork Orange – it’s a foul farrago,’ wrote Burgess: The great novelist saw himself as a poet, and newly found stanzas show him berating his own bestseller in verse (Dalya Alberge, 8 Nov 2020, The Observer)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: “A Clockwork Orange” Made Me Long to Be a Monster, But It Only Saw Me as a Victim: The book and film pit sexual repression against sexual monstrosity, but leave no room for women in either (FAITH MERINO, 5/18/21, Electric Lit)
    -REVIEW: of ‘The Devil Prefers Mozart: On Music and Musicians, 1962-1993’ by Anthony Burgess (Dominic Green, Free Beacon)

Book-related and General Links:

-FEATURED AUTHOR: NY Times Book Review
    -REVIEW : Review of the new edition of Ulysses, by James Joyce, with an introduction by Richard Ellmann (Anthony Burgess, June 19, 1986,  The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Foucault's Pendulum (Anthony Burgess, NY Times Book Review)
    -The Anthony Burgess Center  (Bibliothèque universitaire d'Angers)
    -Anthony Burgess Society
    A Clockwork Orange
    Anthony Burgess (1917-1993)
    Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange
    -Literary Research Guide: Anthony Burgess (1917 - 1993)
    -ESSAY: Anthony Burgess as Fictional Character in Theroux and Byatt (John J. Stinson, SUNY Fredonia)

    -INFO: A Clockwork Orange (1971) (IMDB)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: A Clockwork Orange (1971) (

If you liked A Clockwork Orange, try:

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Hayek, Friedrich
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Johnson, Paul
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