The lines between aestheticism and morality are often blurred, and, for some, do not exist at all. Such a one is Alex, who in his own parlance conside...moreThe lines between aestheticism and morality are often blurred, and, for some, do not exist at all. Such a one is Alex, who in his own parlance considers a “horrorshow” evening (an anglicized version of хорошо, pronounced “khoroshow” and meaning “good” or “well” in Russian) one replete with violence and rape. Indeed, what to Alex is “horrorshow” (good, to him) is frightening to the rest of us. This demonstrates not only the boldness of Burgess’s subject matter, but also his clever use of language. Another example is in the word “groovy”, as in “the red red groovy”. This is morphed from the Russian word кровь, (pronounced “kroyv”, meaning blood), which would again be sickening or gross to most of us, but to Alex is kind of neat.
Burgess’s novel becomes further complicated when, through events in the novel, he essentially asks, “what is to be done with such a person?” Do we just lock them up so that they can cause no further harm? Or do we try to reform them? An effort for the latter is attempted, although it quickly becomes clear that, though morally improved, Alex’s humanity has suffered (demonstrated in his ability to appreciate the art and pleasures he once did), and even prompts him to want to kill himself. Hence the title of the novel, “A Clockwork Orange.” Can we take something that’s natural and primitive and make it run like clockwork, i.e., the way we want it to? To what extent do we do this already? Isn’t art often an effort to push the envelope of what is considered “right” and “wrong”? Why are we so entertained by sex and violence and other breakdowns of social norms? For all of Alex’s despicableness, one cannot deny that there is an aesthetic strain in him, particularly identified in his cool, creative use of language, even though it distorts any shred of morality he may have.
A truly provocative novel, and a horrowshow read indeed, especially when one knows a bit of the old Russkiy. (less)
A painfully humorous read, this story is very much in the tradition of Gogol and Dostoevsky in employing the absurd to undermine and satirize the soci...moreA painfully humorous read, this story is very much in the tradition of Gogol and Dostoevsky in employing the absurd to undermine and satirize the socio-political trends of the time. It was banned in the Soviet Union upon publication in 1925 and remained so until 1987. It tells the story of Sharik, a dog with an instinct for survival, and of the Professor that sought to use his innovative talent to cultivate something modern out of this dog. The story thus serves as a kind of allegory of the monster that is created when the intelligentsia haphazardly espouse and eventually practice an idea that sounds good in theory, but poses grave practical problems. There are many points of humor which require more knowledge of Russian culture and history of the time, but its most basic level of humor is understandable even to the mildly educated reader. Highly recommended for lovers of satire and Soviet history.(less)
Fascinatingly strange. Borders on the edge of dream/reality, thus giving it a mystical, magical quality. At the same time, it brutally satirizes life...moreFascinatingly strange. Borders on the edge of dream/reality, thus giving it a mystical, magical quality. At the same time, it brutally satirizes life under the Soviet Union, particularly the negative ramifications of enforced atheism. It makes these jabs indirectly, requiring a good deal of background knowledge, which at least this edition provided. Also includes an alternate history of Jesus Christ's (referred to as "Jesus the Nazarene") encounter with Pilate, which is at least thought-provoking, if not a bit off. The novel definitely merits (and, perhaps requires) multiple reads, which I'm sure I'll give it.
All that aside, how could you go wrong with a gambling, cigar -smoking, chess-playing and vodka-consuming cat who is approximately the size of a hog and is named "begemot" (Russian for "behemoth")? Oh, and he can talk and walk on two legs, by the way. (less)