"what's it going to be then, eh?"
I viddied the sinny before I read this veshch, which is most unfortunate. Once I had a chance to run my glazzies over the pages I was surprised, O my brothers, for I found the book to be real horrorshow. The nadsat language is quite oomny, even though the slovos are a malenky bit difficult on the gulliver at first. Indeed it is a raskazz for like vecks and ptitsas both. It hardly left my rookers at all that nochy. I recommend it to you, my faithful droogs, even if you're not interested in a bit of the old ultra-violence.
I really thought this book was great. Burgess creates an entire new world and a whole dictionary of slang, which in itself is extraordinary. The story is one of brutality, human choice, and the true meaning of redemption.
*The slang was very confusing for the first three or so pages, but then I felt like I could understand everything as if he were speaking plain English. Give your brain a chance and I think the same will happen for you!
I had the pleasure of reading the version with the (very snarky) foreword by Anthony Burgess. It seems that the movie version, and the version of the novel released in America, were missing the critical last chapter (a decision by the publisher), which gives 'A Clockwork Orange' a distinctly different feel. I highly recommend reading it, but if your copy has twenty chapters, it is missing the twenty-first. The twentieth chapter ends where the famed movie does; the twenty-first outlines "what happened next." It changes it into a different story.
That said, I was also fortunate that my husband had read it first, and left a series of notes of the Nadsat (made-up language the characters use) / English translations, so my reading experience wasn't made more difficult trying to learn things from context. You may find an online translator here:
It's incredibly helpful. As far as the actual story goes - I was reluctant to read it because of the general feel that it's a highly disturbing story, and I generally dislike filling my head with disturbing - it tends to stick with me! I really enjoyed it, and would read it again. A true modern classic. And yes, haunting.
This book was very hard to get through, and not just because of the language. Like many good art pieces, A Clockwork Orange makes you feel uneasy, throwing the taboo in your face.
The main character and narrator, Alex, not only commits heinous crimes, but delights in them, and describes his delights in great detail to the reader. It's not often rape and violence is put in a positive light (at least not in books I read). You start off (rightfully) thinking of Alex as a monster, despite his likable personality.
To make things more uncomfortable for the reader, during and after Alex's "reform" you start to feel sympathy for him. Once you're lulled into believing that he's a victim, Burgess shoves reminders in your face of just how wicked Alex is. A lot of questions and thoughts come up that you never thought you'd have to ask. Did he deserve to lose his free will? Or did he lose that right by making his evil choices? Does bad behavior warrant such extreme, inhumane treatment?
Burgess gives us the questions but doesn't answer them for us. The answers are left ambiguous, for us to challenge our own thoughts and views and come up with our own answers. It is a hard reminder that not everything is black and white.
A lot of people felt the strange language and made-up slang detracted from the story, but I think it made the story what it is. It emphasizes this future scenario, acknowledging that language is ever changing. You are an outsider, looking in on a completely different (yet slightly familiar) society. I think it also helps distance the reader from what's going on. Not having a complete and comprehensive grasp of what the narrator is saying makes the pill of violence a little easier to swallow.
This was a very good book, and one that everyone should read at least once in their life.
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Although Anthony Burgess himself doesn't like it much, and thinks it is way too popular, I have lost count of the number of times I've read it. I think it's very, very interesting, and of course the way he uses language adds a great deal to the book.