Firstly I’m going start by saying that if you haven’t already read this book, do it. Do it now!
It might only be a hundred or so pages long, but Burgess’ dystopian novel is brimming with wildly interesting ideas, difficult questions surrounding morality and often graphic scenes of violence. The narrative follows Alex, a teenager who loves Beethoven, violence, sex and drugs. After a robbery gone wrong, he is arrested and faces a lengthy sentence…that is until he volunteers to take part in a new experimental rehabilitative treatment, the Ludovico Technique.
At times the book is distressing, and the Ludovico Technique is just one of the many horrors that the book contains. Nadsat however, the fictional language Burgess uses throughout, navigates these horrors in a strangely fascinating manner. Not only does the language censor the violence, replacing sensitive words with Nadsat slang, but also heightens the horror of the situation; how do we know what ‘tolchocked’ or ‘krovvy’ actually means, is what imagine to be happening really happening and as violently as we envisage?
At its crux however the dystopian world is dominated by huge questions surrounding the morality and ethics of imposing the good on the bad, and the means by which this is achieved. Burgess tackles issues of behaviourism, pharmacological control, rehabilitation and free-will, all without compromise or apology. In doing so, the questions that remain at the end of the book stay with the reader long after finishing the novel.
A Clockwork Orange is not a book with a neat ending, nor is it an entirely comfortable read, but it is an essential one that will not disappoint.