Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review of A Clockwork Orange

Who hasn't seen the movie?
I didn't like the movie too much. I'm quite fond of movies made by Kubrick, especially Space Odyssey and Dr Strangelove, but Clockwork Orange just wasn't up to par.

I'm feeling the same about the book. It's not what I expected, it was different and amusing as such since I've read a lot of books and not many challenge the readers by playing with words. Burgess implemented a lot of Russian and made up slang in his novel, that's used constantly (much like the lingo in Trainspotting).
Lucky for me the book had an introduction where most words were explained so I knew a gulliver was the same as your head and so on. Once you've deciphered the words, it reads quite easily, almost as if nadsat is a native tongue.

I'm aware some might think I'm speaking in tongues, but when you read the first chapter of Clockwork Orange you'll get it.
The story which the language overshadows a little, is of a teenager, Alex, whose gotten used to very violent behaviour. In a dystopian (doesn't that sound familiar) society where violence is part of every day life, Alex and his friends or groods as he calls them go about their life terrorizing people, even raping and murdering as they search for adrenaline. Alex doesn't seem to morally judge what he's doing. Eventually he ends up arrested and is being sent to jail. He spends two years behind bars, of the initial punishment of fourteen years, when he gets selected for a special treatment which could set him free in just two weeks.

Alex agrees. He's being conditioned to having severe reaction to any kind of violence which renders him weakless when he is being released into the world again. Soon he encounters victims and villains from the past which he can't fight, he can't even defend himself properly.
As fate sometimes works in novels he stumbles over the doorstep of the man whose wife he once raped. The man doesn't recognize him, because he had been wearing masks, and when the man realizes he's the victim of conditioning therapy he tries to persuade Alex to join the cause of battling those institutions.

A man who cannot choose, ceases to be a man.

Ultimately Alex tries to kill himself when he is hearing classical music to which he also has a strong negative reaction. It fails but while he's in the hospital the therapy has been reversed.
He goes back to his known ways, but the book ends on a positive note that he might be growing up and not interested in breaking things apart. Instead he's looking forward to building a future for himself, one where he can warn his son against the perils of growing up which he realises his son might not take his advice as he rejected his fathers.

A Clockwork Orange is  a violent coming-of-age story in a society where teenagers have crossed the boundaries of reason. It's a tale of the pro's and cons of conditioning humans to do a certain bidding. You're trailing along your humble narrator on his rampage and his repantance. In spite of his vile character I still felt some connection with Alex, because he ultimately doesn't do harm because he hates the people he hurts, but because he doesn't know any other way to interact.
It's a good novel, but in the end the style of writing overshadows the story. Still the story does render a sort of detached feeling, much like Alex is feeling towards the society he's growing up in.

I'm giving this novel 7 out of 10.