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Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange

Vydáno dne 04.02.2008

The Novel was published in 1962 and in 1971 it was made into a film of 131 minutes (directed by Stanley Kubrick). It has 3 parts of 7 chapters.

Anthony Burgess:

A Clockwork Orange

book cover Part I
First seven chapters introduce the main character of the story, a fifteen-year-old Alex DeLarge. He and his friends - Pete, Georgie and Dim, live in a dystopian future, hunting for terrible thrills. They enjoy ultra-violence, rape and drugs. Apart from these, Alex is extremely fond of classical music, namely Beethoven's Ninth. An example of their terrible deeds is something they call "the old surprise visit"; they raid a lonely country house where they attack a writer and his wife. She's badly raped, which leads to her subsequent death, while her husband ends up in a wheelchair, half insane.
Alex is the leader of his gang and thus he's the one who makes decisions. However, his mates get fed up with his rule and lure Alex into a trap. They organize another "old surprise visit" during which they wait outside, letting Alex carry out the whole crime himself and consequently call the police and hold him back in the crime scene. Alex is apprehended and interrogated. Meanwhile, his last victim dies in hospital and Alex is put into custody.

Part II
Chapters eight to fourteen tell about Alex's stay in prison and about a special treatment brought in by the government. Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison for murder. Nevertheless, he leaves the jail after two years; Alex and other prisoners from his cell beat a newcomer, whom they don't like, to death. Alex is made a scapegoat by others and is sent to undergo a new treatment in the Ludovico Medical Centre. There he's treated against violence and sex: Dr. Brodsky gives him injections with some kind of special serum which makes him feel sick, while he's being shown particularly disgusting films full of violence, rape, concentration camps and the like. As the background score, they use Beethoven's music and therefore Alex is being conditioned against it, too, which of course wasn't planned for. He's fastened in a straitjacket and his eyelids are fixed, and so he's forced to watch the films despite of the horrible sickness and mental anguish compared to a deathlike paralysis. Within 14 days he's 'cured' and free...

Part III
Last six chapters narrate Alex's return and effort to integrate into common society. After he's set free, he returns home only to find out his room in his parent's flat is let to a lodger and nobody's happy about seeing Alex back. All his personal things were taken away, his snake Basil dead. Upset and downcast, Alex leaves without having a clear idea about his destination. On his way through the city he meets an old man who he and his gang had beaten up at the beginning of the first part and was given back what he deserved. Later, he encounters his former friend Dim with Billy-boy, another gang leader - both in the Police uniform. They take their revenge, too - Alex realizes he's quite defenceless against violence because it's better for him to suffer the punches than feel the terrific sickness that creeps over him any time he only imagines being violent himself. Beaten up and exhausted to death, Alex walks through a wild storm when he finally comes to a country house. He knocked on the door to ask for help. At the very moment he looked into the face of the house owner, he realized where he was and had been before - it was the house of the writer... But Alex knew he was safe - at that time, he and his friends used to wear disguises, so the writer wouldn't recognize him.
Alex is offered a hot bath and given some food and wine. Next day, the writer invites some well-connected friends of his, intending to make a case out of Alex's life-story, aiming it at the Party and government. While talking to Alex, the writer notices that the boy uses some very strange words. Alex informs him that this special language is called "NADSAT" and is used by all the teens. Nevertheless, this was an unhappy clue which helped the writer recognize Alex being the one responsible for his own disability and his wife's death...
Government and party is forgotten, the half-insane writer decides to take his revenge. Unsuspecting Alex is locked in a flat from where he cannot escape from Beethoven's Ninth which resounds all around. Alex is tortured by the treatment and he sees the window as his only way out. Suicide will sort everything out.
Alex survives his suicide attempt. The government was criticized for bad side-effects of the Ludovico treatment in the newspapers and they start being interested in Alex's case. The Minister of Interior himself visits Alex in hospital. He tries to get Alex on his side by showing his apparent interest, offering him a good job and salary after comes out of hospital. The Minister's intention is to make Alex help him change the public opinion on the Government which has turned negative after publishing Alex's story in newspapers, blaming Government for everything. As a present, the Minister brings Alex music - it's the Ninth. Alex is left alone with the music which harms him no more and he suddenly realizes he "was cured all right"...

The 21st chapter
It begins very similarly to the first chapter, describing Alex, now aged 18, and his new three friends, sitting in their favourite Korova Milk bar, drinking Moloko Plus. Alex is tired of being ultra-violent himself, so he only gives orders to his gang and supervises. One night he gets bored even with that and visits a pub on his own, where he encounters Pete, one of his former friends from the gang. We know that Dim became a Policemen and earlier, Georgie had been killed. Pete is here with his wife, Georgina. It makes Alex ponder over his life and suddenly he realizes he would like to have a family, a son. Alex somehow becomes mature.
The 21st chapter wasn't originally published and Stanley Kubrick didn't cover it in the film either. As far as we know, Anthony Burgess, the author, wasn't particularly proud of the last chapter himself.

dvd coverA Clockwork Orange in Film
The film was shot in 1971 by Stanley Kubrick. Malcolm McDowell appeared in the lead role. The soundtrack contained a lot of Beethoven music, especially the Ninth, of course, and was mainly performed and/or arranged by Walter Carlos. The screenplay was written by Stanley Kubrick, too (and is freely available on Internet), and there are several discrepancies from the novel (e. g. Alex isn't disclosed by the writer due to Nadsat, but a song - "Singin In the Rain", which he sings during the assault in the country house as well as when coming there for the second time after the unhappy encounter with the "police" who had beaten him up; his stay in prison is basically not covered in the film, but there is a scene from Alex's arrival to the prison; Alex isn't sent to the Ludovico Medical centre because of incorrect behaviour but he deliberately chooses it himself, addressing the Minister of Interior during his visit in the State Jail and is eventually chosen by him.).

Nadsat
Nadsat is a special slang language of the teens invented by Anthony Burgess himself. "Nadsat" comes from Russian, meaning "Over ten", referring to teenagers. Nadsat is based on English, Cockney (east-London rhyming slang) and Russian. A complete dictionary (and even a translator!) can be found on Internet. Several examples of Nadsat:

droog = friend (Russ.)
viddy = see (Russ.)
gulliver = head (Russ.)
pretty polly = money (Cockney)
slooshy = hear (Russ.)


On the other hand, In the Czech translation of the book, the basis of Nadsat is English, for the translator found it a better choice for linguistic and historic reasons. Apart from English, the Czech version of Nadsat is a mixture of German- or even Russian-based words, some gypsy talk and completely new words, which are used by the author himself, too. Example of the "Czech" Nadsat:

hjumaníK = a man (Eng.)
rabbitit = to work (Rus.)
taštúk = handkerchief (Ger.)
školivol = school (new)

ACO on Internet
A lot of Clockwork orange can be found on youtube.com.

There is also a website dedicated to Malcolm McDowell where you can find many interesting materials on ACO, including the eBook novel!



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Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (www.englishbooks.cz)



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(*1983)má za sebou 6 let praxe ve výuce středoškoláků a dospělých. Od r. 2005 se věnuje také překladatelské činnosti, přičemž působí i jako soukromá lektorka. Mimo jiné je držitelkou hodnotitelských certifikátů nově připravované státní maturity. V současné době dálkově studuje na Univerzitě Hradec Králové obor Jazyková a literární kultura.

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