Disturbing, powerful and thought-provoking in equal measure, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess tells the story of Alex, a 15 year old anti-hero in a dystopian future who carries out theft, rape and murder before ending up in prison where he is put through an experiment in an attempt to cure him. Anyone who has tried to read my Kindle over my shoulder on the train to work this week will probably have regretted it. The book is pretty brutal.
I was originally going to suggest that if you plan to read this book you might want to have a Russian slang dictionary to hand. However, I think working out what the words mean without prompts is actually more interesting. Besides, if you read this on an e-reader as I did, it would be quite impractical to flip back to a glossary all the time. Glossary or no glossary, Burgess’s use of language is not just original – it is mind-bending. The same can be said about the themes of the book which pose some particularly difficult questions about state control.
This book might be short but it is by far the most challenging I have come across for a long time. It didn’t freak me out as much as ‘Crash’ by J.G. Ballard but that is probably because Burgess somehow manages to provoke some level of sympathy from the reader towards Alex even though he has committed appalling crimes. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is a multi-layered classic which I’m still trying to absorb – I think I will re-read it one day hopefully when I’m not on a commuter train at 8am.