A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Alex is the fifteen year old leader of a group of four that fills its nights with fights, robberies, drugs and rape. As so often happens a simple struggle for the leadership lets the group fall apart as Alex is caught by the police. He is sentenced to fourteen years in prison, but after a fraction of that time Alex accepts a proposal he cannot refuse: undergo a treatment of a few weeks and be free.  Question is if he made the right choice...
The first things that strikes you in this book is its language. A Clockwork Orange is peppered with an invented language loosely rooted in Russian - for most words at least. The youngsters, or nadsat, talk this slang, and since the entire book is told by Alex you'll find nadsatslang all over the story. At first it may seem as if the constant looking up the words, or returning to a phrase where the meaning of that word was obvious, will take the pace out of the story, but you'll notice that Burgess has woven this slang very smartly into the book. It takes only a couple of pages to get used to it, and after a while you don't even notice it anymore.
Alex is an evil person. He doesn't do evil things, he just is evil. A night hasn't been good if he hasn't seen blood, even if it is his own. What he does almost makes you sick, but to him it's like a hobby. And at the same time his (other) greatest joy is listening to loudly played classical music, with Beethoven as his absolute idol.
The sickest part of the book however is not Alex' evil, but the state's evil, well-dressed in the form of a treatment that will both cure sick Alex of his violence and rid the streets of violent youth. In itself that is a noble goal, but the method is questionable to say the least. Without preaching this book asks some pertinent questions. Which evil is the worst: Chosing evil, or not having a choice? How far can a society go in "curing" it's "ill" citizens? Are repression and treatment the only answers to violence? Are they even the proper answers? The book was written four decades ago, but those questions make it very relevant today as well.
Yep, I can recommend this one. It's one of those classics that manage to combine a fluent story with some thought-provocation. And furthermore there's a lot of humour blended in.
A Clockwork Orange
© Jim Bella 2002-2005