June 20, 2013
Cutting A Clockwork OrangeOn this day in 1962 Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange was published. Although many do not think it his best novel -- the vote seems to go to Earthly Powers (1980) -- A Clockwork Orange made Burgess internationally famous, largely due to the controversey surrounding the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film. Some found the book prophetic of our social breakdown; some blamed the book for helping to cause that breakdown, or capitalize on it; some dismissed both book and author outright: "Anthony Burgess is a literary smart aleck whose novel, A Clockwork Orange last year achieved a success d'estime with critics like William Burroughs, who mistook his muddle of sadism, teddyboyism, jive talk and Berlitz Russian for social philosophy."
Burgess said that it was his least favorite book, but he did not think that he was in a muddle over meaning: the muddle was due to the film being based on the American edition of the book, which omitted his last chapter. In his introduction to the 1986, restored, American edition, he says that he gave in to his American editors because he needed their money, but they turned his novel into a fable, something merely sensational and not "a fair picture of human life." He explains that in his last chapter -- symbolically, Chapter 21 -- "my young thuggish protagonist grows up" because he recognizes "that human energy is better expended on creation than destruction":
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