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The Curious Curator's Book Blog

Contemporary art curator. Student. Book addict. Art lover. Geek. Dreamer. Curious about everything. Check out my website http://thecuriouscurator.com/

Currently reading

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Ken Baumann
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Mathieu Triclot

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

Humanity is doomed. At least that's what goes through my head every time I finish reading a dystopian novel. Obviously, that's an overstatement, and generally I don't believe the world is as bleak as this sort of novels portray it, since what they do is follow the ideas of what is considered "right" to an extreme and show that everything can be perverted. But still.


This book deals with violence as a moral choice. The protagonist, Alex, knows that what he does (rape, burglary, murder, violence in general) is wrong, but chooses to do it anyway. The book's central question is with regards to free will. Alex gets arrested and submits to a reforming program that involves conditioning him to be repulsed by violence. This is generally regarded as a terrible thing. And this, for me, is where the book looses its strength. I could appreciate the problem of submitting people to a conditioning process that is entirely in the hands of the government, and the potential problems that could arise from that. And I certainly appreciate humanity's free will. Of course the therapy doesn't change Alex. Of course the "good" person he becomes is nothing but an artificial machine (a "clockwork orange"), and not a person. But, in all honesty, I couldn't care less what happened to Alex. All the characters (and Alex himself) who were worried about his free will, about how the government was taking away his freedom of choice, who went on and on about how cruel what he was being subjected to was, sounded to me almost ridiculous. What about the freedom of choice of the girls he raped? Should his choice to rape them be more important than their choice not to be raped? He never seemed to think about their suffering. Why is everyone caring about his?


Of course, this is merely my opinion, and maybe that's just the cynic in me talking. I still enjoyed the book, since I was interested in its exploration of the way street violence was manipulated by politicians, and how the different people reacted to violence. I also liked the language used. The slang is difficult to understand at first, but as the book progresses you get used to it, and I actually almost ceased to notice it.


I haven't watched the movie by Kubrick, but from reading the introduction I know that it ends in a different, bleaker way. The book's ending didn't convince me. Blaming the violence on youth? Suddenly not wanting to rape or kill anymore because you're growing up? Sounds like a rather poor excuse (not to mention just a tiny bit insulting to young people).


All this aside, I still thought it was a good book, and well worth the read, provided you're ready to tackle with the slang and (especially hard for me) the very graphic depictions of violence.