It was the source of some unhappiness to Anthony Burgess that, of the fifty or more works which he published during his lifetime, A Clockwork Orange should be the most famous. He had, he believed, written better books and feared he would be remembered 'as the fountain and origin of a great film" - that is, as the man who wrote the novel from which Stanley Kubrick made the more celebrated movie. Why, he wondered, could the reading public not attend to his other achievements: the En-derby novels; the playful fictional explorations of Shakespeare; the critical guides to Joyce; the music, the libretti, the plays, even the journalism and reviews? He compared himself to Rachmaninoff, whose Prelude in C Sharp Minor, written as a boy, is better known than the works of his maturity. The letters Burgess received from students working on A Clockwork Orange, evidence though they were of the esteem in which he was held in Academe, did not console him. Irritated, even embittered, he pushed on with other novels, one of which, Earthly Powers (1980), won huge acclaim and contains what has become his most quoted sentence: 'It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.' But it is A Clockwork Orange, published in 1962 near the beginning of his career, which readers first associate with the name Anthony Burgess.
There are good reasons for this, nothing to do with Kubrick's film. Burgess was a prolific novelist but also a wayward one, brilliant at particulars, careless with the whole (he once said that he revised page by page, but that 're-writing a whole book would bore me'). In A Clockwork Orange, which is more like a novella than a novel, his powers were fully concentrated. There is the title, to begin with, a memorable and richly suggestive one adapted from a piece of slang: 'as queer as a clockwork orangeí is a Cockney expression meaning very queer indeed (the meaning can be, but isn't necessarily, sexual), and Burgess could see its potential even before he had a story to go with it. There is the fearful symmetry of the book's tripartite structure. There is the dark enticingness of the hero, Alex. There is the vision of a near-future society, as frighteningly persuasive, however small the canvas, as the dystopias of George Orwell or Aldous Huxley: a youth culture in revolt, a corrupt police force, a government unable to govern. There is the devastatingly simple, yet profound, moral dilemma, which underlies the book: is it better for a man to choose to be bad than to be conditioned to be good? To which Burgess, not hedging his bets, answers clearly: yes.
Above all, there is the language of A Clockwork Orange, which is every bit as queer as the title might imply - Joyceanly queer in places, more demanding of the reader than most fiction, but exuberant in its inventiveness. Though other novelists, from Joyce to Russell Hoban, have also coined strange tongues, there is nothing in English quite like Burgess's novel, and no one who perseveres beyond the opening paragraphs is likely to forget the experience, difficult and disorienting though it can be. The disturbance isn't only in the language, but in the incidents which Alex, the narrator, uses language to relate:
'All right. Dim,' I said. 'Now for the other veshch, Bog help us all.' So he did the strong-man on the devotchka, who was still creech creech creeching away in very horrorshow four-in-a-bar, locking her rookers from the back, while I ripped away at this and that and the other, the others going haw haw haw still, and real good horrorshow groodies they were that then exhibited their pink glazzies, 0 my brothers, while I untrussed and got ready for the plunge. Plunging, I could slooshy cries of agony and this writer bleeding veck that Georgie and Pete held on to nearly got loose howling bezoomny with the filthiest of slovos that I already knew and others he was making up. Then after me it was right old Dim should have his turn, which he did in a beasty snorty howly sort of a way with his Peebee Shelley maskie taking no notice, while I held on to her. Then there was a changeover. Dim and me grabbing the slobbering writer veck who was past struggling really, only just coming out with slack sort of slovos like he was in the land in a milk-plus bar, and Pete and Georgie had theirs. Then there was like quiet and we were full of like hate, so smashed what was left to be smashed - typewriter, lamp, chairs - and Dim, it was typical of old Dim, watered the fire out and was going to dung on the carpet, there being plenty of paper, but I said no. 'Out out out out,' I howled. The writer veck and his zheena were not really there, bloody and torn and making noises. But they'd live.
was certainly no pleasure to me to describe acts of violence when writing the novel,' wrote Burgess in 1972, the year Stanley Kubrick's adaptation embroiled him in controversy over the filmís and book's, possible incitement to violence. Later, in his autobiography You've Had Your Time, less on the defensive, he put it more interestingly: 'I was sickened by my own excitement at setting it down.' Strictly speaking, the excitement here - the description of a gang rape - is Alex's, not Burgess's. But there is no denying that the book is most alive when its hero behaves wickedly, not when he is paying for his crimes. Like Milton, Burgess was of the Devil's party without knowing it. A Clockwork Orange was intended to be, and is, an affirmation of individual choice, including the choice to murder and rape. Its theology and ethics are impeccable. But to express them it uses, as Alex does, a cutthroat razor.
Much of the excitement in the passage above comes not from what Alex says, but how he says it: from his slovos. Burgess called this language nadsat, a transliteration of the Russian suffix for 'teen', and imagined that at the rime and place the events in the novel occur (somewhere in Europe, circa 1972), it had become part of the culture, or sub-culture. The narrator's three droogs (from drugi, friends in violence), also speak nadsat and, like him, have pleasingly rootless, Anglo-Russo-American names: Alex (a-lex\ without, or outside, the law), Georgie, Pete and Dim. Their language is essentially Anglo-American (Russian readers would be more in need of a translation of the passage above than we are) but many of the words are Slavic in origin. Groodiefor example, comes from grud (breast), and horrorshow from kharasho, the neuter form of the Russian word for 'good', and thus a term of approbation (like the modern use of' wicked'). Yarbles, meaning testicles, may owe something to the Russian word for apples, y'abloko (Alex later greets a government official with 'Bolshy great yarblockos to thee and thine'). Devotchka is 'woman' or 'wife'. Slovos are words and govoreeting is the speaking of them. Glazzies are eyes, though here they are the pink eyes on the tip ofgroodies, and thus nipples. The body inspires some of Burgess's best inventions: rookers (from ruka) can be both arms and hands, and nogas both legs and feet (sabogs are worn on the latter); there is also the litso (face), rot (mouth), zoobies (teeth), yahzick (tongue), guttiwuts (stomach) and gulliver (head: a nod at Jonathan Swift). Other coinages are more obviously slangy. Cancers are cigarettes, pretty polly is rhyming slang for money (lolly), and to do something oddy-knocky is to do it on your own. Sinny is the cinema, aptly enough, given the evil Alex is forced to consume there (and also given what the author himself would come to feel about Stanley Kubrick's film). Averse though Burgess was to lavatory humour, there is a touch of it in his word for God: Bog.
The old American edition of A Clockwork Orange carried a glossary of nadsat words. Burgess did not approve of this: in a novel which takes brainwashing as its subject, he intended his own form of brainwashing, which was to force readers to use a Russian dictionary. Though reading the novel requires some puzzle-solving, the meaning of a nadsat word is often clear from the context, or from Burgess's own glosses: a paragraph about the pleasures of deng obligingly ends: 'But as they say, money isn't everything.' One reviewer described the language as 'out-of-this-world gibberish', but there is nothing random or otherworldly about it: Burgess chose his 200 or so words of nadsat because they work in English, whether as poetry, or humour (what could be more comical than policemen being millicents?), or plausible slang. Being a devotee of Finneganís Wake, he believed the more layers of ambiguity, the better. Thus the word for 'work' is rabbit, which owes something to the Russian verb rabotat, but may also suggest rab (Russian for 'slave'), and carries an echo of 'robot', and in Alex's vocabulary suggests scaredy behaviour. But Russian imports aren't the only aspect of the language. There are also, in the above passage, the repetitions ('creech creech creeching away'), the echoes of Shakespeare (to my ear, 'untrussed' comes in this category), and the wonderfully laconic use of the word 'like': 'Then there was like quiet and we were full of like hate.'
This use of 'like' was probably rare in 1962, but became commonplace in the counter-culture of the late 60s, as did the hallucinogenic drugs (the milk-plus) which Alex uses for recreation. Much about A Clockwork Orange is prophetic: by keeping his ear to the ground, Burgess sometimes heard the rumble of what was coming next. Television, for example, in Britain at least, was in its infancy in 1962: no satellite stations, no Euro-trash, no sign of Rupert Murdoch's global village. But Alex describes 'what they called a worldcast, meaning that the same programme was being viddied by everybody in the world that wanted to, that being mostly the middle-aged middle-class lewdies. There would be some big famous stupid comic chelloveck or black singer, and it was all being bounced off the special telly satellites in outer space, my brothers'. But novels set in futures - from Jules Verne's to J. G. Ballard's -- have to be judged as novels, not by the accuracy of their predictions. When Alex wakes and looks at his bedside clock - 'oh eight oh oh hours' - the pleasure lies more in the protesting language (Alex, like most teenagers, would rather be asleep at this hour) than in the prophecy that time would become, as it has, digital. At the start of A Chckwork Orange the dress of Alex and his droogs is quasi-Elizabethan: 'a pair of black very tight tights with the old jelly mould, as we called it, fitting on the crotch'. By the end, three years later, fashions have changed: 'very wide trousers and a very loose black shiny leather like jerkin over an open-necked shirt with a like scarf tucked in. At this time too it was the heighth of fashion to use the old britva on the gulliver, so that most of the gulliver was like bald and there was hair only on the sides. But it was always the same on the old nogas - real horrorshow bolshy big boots for kicking litsos in.' It doesn't matter that some of this looks familiar - skinhead, or even vaguely punk - and some of it much less so. Burgess's business was fiction, not futures. A Chckwork Orange also includes the ominous dreams which Alex and his father have the night before he loses his freedom - prophecies which belong more in the tradition of Shakespeare's history plays than of Brave New World or Arthur C. Clarke. Dismissing these dreams, Alex slips into Shakespearian or Biblical English. '0 my father . . . Fear not. He canst taketh care of himself, verily.' He also slips into the third person, though this is unusual, and a joke. One of Burgess's triumphs is to let Alex tell his own tale, rather than keeping him at a safe distance. Alex insinuates and allies himself so intimately with his readers ('0 my brothers') that we end up sharing every laugh ('haw haw haw5) and cry ('boohoohoo'). He may not be as seductive a young narrator as Holden Caulfield in J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, but he has the same undeceived attitude to adults, and all their phoney values. The work ethic has crushed his poor 'pee and em' (father and mother) to the point where he feels pitying contempt for them. Life is dull, made tolerable only by drugs, sex and violence. Bourgeois comforts hold no attraction: 'HOME,' Alex reflects, spotting the name on the gate of a country cottage, 'a gloomy sort of a name.' He is a classic teen anti-hero, and this includes him having a quality of innocence, even at his most depraved. Deceived by his droogs and arrested for murder, he is then conned by his fellow cons, who put sole blame on him for a second murder, that of a new inmate. Later, having naively consented to Reclamation Treatment (which succeeds in making him nauseous every time he contemplates violence), he becomes a pawn in a political struggle between government and opposition: the Augustinians in power, who use him as a guinea pig for their experiment in human conditioning; and the seemingly liberal but no less ruthless Pelagians, who want to parade him as a victim of government tyranny. (The distinction here was one Burgess often made himself: St Augustine thought that man is born in original sin, the monk Pelagius denied the doctrine.) Alex is too brutal to be wholly sympathetic and too strong to be a victim. But like many a rebel-hero, he exudes diabolic charm. One ofAlex's charms is his love of music, which he plays full blast in his typically teenage bedroom ('Here was my bed and my stereo, pride of my jeezny, and my discs in their cupboard, and banners and flags on the wall'), and which lifts him to lyric heights: 'Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo. . .'What distinguishes Alex from most teenagers is that his tastes in music are classical: Bach, Mozart, above all Beethoven, whose Ninth Symphony becomes the novel's dominant motif. It may reflect Burgess's own prejudices that, feeling some affection for his hero, he could not permit him to be a devotee of pop. There was also the consideration that a love of Elvis Presley or Billy Fury would have dated the novel. More than this, though, Burgess uses music to address the question of whether high art is civilizing. The fact that the men who ran Auschwitz read Shakespeare and Goethe, and played Bach and Beethoven, was much discussed at the time Burgess was writing A Clockwork Orange: the essays collected in George Steiner's Language and Silence (which Burgess reviewed on its publication in 1967) repeatedly address it. Alex addresses it too, laughingly dismissing the old Leavisite notion that art humanizes: 'I had to have a smeck, though, thinking of what I'd viddied once in one of these like articles on Modern Youth, about how Modern Youth would be better off if A Lively Appreciation Of The Arts could be like encouraged. Great Music, it said, and Great Poetry would like quieten Modern Youth down and make Modern Youth more Civilized. Civilized my syphilised yarbles. Music always sort of sharpened me up, 0 my brothers, and made me feel like old Bog himself, ready to make with the old donner and blitzen and have vecks and ptitsas creeching away in my ha ha power.' It's a black mark against the government psychologist Dr Brodsky that, himself uninterested in music, he uses Beethoven in his reform programme, so that Alex, thereafter, can never hear Beethoven play without feeling sick. The opposition liberals, too, wilfully torture Alex with the Ninth Symphony, driving him to attempt suicide. Music may not civilize Alex, but it is an essential mark of his good taste and of his enemies' lack of it.
The government's reform programme is called the Ludovico Method, a play on Beethoven's first name. A Clockwork Orange finds room for many literary jokes and allusions of this kind. The masks Alex and his gang wear to disguise themselves when committing crimes are those of Disraeli, Henry, Elvis Presley and Peebee Shelley. A singer heard in the milk-bar stereo is Johnny Zhivago. There is a Kingsley Avenue and a Priestly Place, roads which allow Burgess to pay tribute to British contemporaries of his - as do Marghanita (Laski) Boulevard, (Angus) Wilsonsway, and (Bob) Boothby Avenue. Burgess even works himself into the story in the form of F. Alexander, the man whose wife is raped in the passage above. Alexander's name links him with Alex, whom he later meets again, by which time his wife has died, as a result, it seems, of the rape. He is also the author of a book called A Clockwork Orange. This book doesn't sound like Burgess's - it is, says Alex, 'written in a very bezoomny like style, full of Ah and Oh and that Ůŗl, and bears more resemblance to Colin Wilson's existentialist polemic The Outsider - but when Alexander speaks up for individual choice and freedom it is in words very like his author's. The effect here is of an endlessly receding mirror. There is another image in the mirror, too. In 1944, while Burgess was serving in Gibraltar, his first wife, Lynne, was beaten, kicked and robbed in London by a gang of four GI deserters. She suffered a miscarriage as a result, and Burgess once speculated, in an interview, that her poor health and early death may have had something to do with the attack. ('CLOCK-WORK ORANGE GANG KILLED MY WIFE - AUTHOR' ran the headline in the London Evening News.) The fictionalizing of this episode in A Clockwork Orange was a catharsis for Burgess, and, as he once said, 'an act of charity' to his wife's assailants, since he chooses to write it as if from their point of view rather than their victim's.
This is not the only element of autobiography underlying the book's composition. Burgess wrote the first draft in 1960 when, returning to Britain from Malaya and Brunei, where he had worked for six years as an education officer in the Colonial Service, he was diagnosed as suffering from an inoperable brain tumour and told (via his wife) that he had only a year to live. He was 43, with four novels behind him. Rather than embark on an exotic holiday or adventure, as condemned men are expected to do. Burgess settled down in Hove, on the south coast of England) ^h^Ś intention of writing several novels before the year was out, thus providing his wife with a stream of posthumous royalties. Burgess had been an occasional novelist up to this point, writing fiction between teaching, composing music and other impecunious pursuits. Now, under a death-sentence, he became a professional.
The practice of a profession entails discipline, which for me meant the production of two thousand words of fair copy every day, weekends included. I discovered that, if I started early enough, I could complete the day's stint before the pubs opened. Or, if I could not, there was an elated period of the night after closing time, with neighbours banging on the walls to protest at the industrious clacking. Two thousand words a day means a yearly total of 730,000. Step up the rate and, without undue effort, you can reach a million. This ought to mean ten novels of 100,000 words each. The quantitative approach to writing is not, naturally, to be approved. -And because of hangovers, marital quarrels, creative deadness induced by the weather, shopping trips, summonses to meet state officials, and sheer torpid gloom, I was not able to achieve more than five and a half novels of very moderate size in that pseudo-terminal year. Still, it was very nearly E. M. Forster's whole long life's output.
The five and a half novels which Burgess produced in his annus mirabilis were The Doctor is Sick, Inside Mr Enderby, The Worm and the Ring (a reworking of an earlier draft), One Hand Clapping, The Eve of Saint Venzis (a novella which had begun as an opera libretto) and A Clockwork Orange. In its first, half-completed, version, which he put aside at the end of the year, realizing he might after all have time to return to it, A Chckwork Orange already had its theme and futuristic setting. Newly back in Britain, Burgess had been struck by the development of coffee bars, pop music and teenage gangs. In particular, there was the rivalry between Mods and Rockers, whose violent Bank Holiday clashes - in Brighton and Hastings - he was in a good position to observe. For his novel, Burgess posited a near future, the 1970s, in which adolescent violence had become large enough a social problem for the government to resort to Pavlovian techniques of 'negative reinforcement'. The difficulty he had on the first draft was with the novel's language. Always fascinated by slang, dialect, neologism, obscenity and the argot of sub-groups, Burgess was receptive to the new teenage vernacular. But he worried about its ephemerality: the danger in using the idiom of Mods and Rockers was that it would be outdated by the time the novel was published, let alone a generation later. Reluctantly, Burgess shoved the first draft in a drawer and got on with something else.
He went back to it the following year, 1961, when, by chance, he found a solution to his stylistic quandary. He and his wife had decided to take a holiday in Leningrad, and in preparation he set about re-learning Russian, which he had studied as a younger man. It occurred to him that, as he puts it, 'the vocabulary of my space-age hooligans could be a mixture of Russian and demotic English, seasoned with rhyming slang and the gipsy's bolo'. The Russo-Anglo-American patois which Burgess devised had the additional bonus, as far as he was concerned, of suggesting that male adolescent aggression was Jiot merely a local British phenomenon. Indeed once Burgess reached the Soviet Union for his holiday, he saw that the Marxist authorities were having their share of problems with rebellious - though not politically dissident - teenage gangs. He even experienced the criminal underworld at first hand by indulging in a little black marketeer-ing of his own, though not strictly in the spirit of research: hard-up as always, and needing to subsidize the holiday, he had filled two suitcases with polyester dresses from Marks and Spencer's in Tunbridge Wells, and sold these garments at a profit in the underground lavatories of his hotel. Perhaps this subterranean criminality fed an observation or two into the novel. But, in fact, the revision of A Clockwork Orange was almost complete before Burgess set sail for Leningrad from Tilbury.
The novel finally appeared in Britain in May 1962. With three more books having appeared in the meantime, Burgess now enjoyed a growing reputation, and had hopes that this novel might dramatically boost it - and also boost his income. These hopes were raised when he was interviewed, and the first chapter of A Clockwork Orange dramatized, on the ¬¬— television programme Tonight which in those days of only two channels was said to have an audience of nine million. But the novel, so Burgess claims in his autobiography, 'sold badly, rather worse if anything than previous novels of mine', a mere three thousand copies by the time his next royalty statement came through. The problem was over-exposure, he decided: the book had been so comprehensively discussed that readers felt they didn't need to go out and buy it. The reviews weren't encouraging, either. The consensus was typified by the New Statesman's verdict that the novel was 'a great strain to read'. The Times Literary Supplement was harsher still: 'a nasty little shocker'.
In the US, where it came out later in the same year, A Clockwork Orange had a better reception. 'Burgess has written that rare thing in English letters - a philosophical novel,' said Time. But pleasure in the accolades was muted, since American reviewers were responding to a different version of the novel, minus the last chapter. Burgess's US publishers were W. W. Norton, whose vice-president, Eric Swenson, had been disinclined to publish the book unless the affirmative ending - in which Alex, on reaching maturity, renounces violence - was dropped. In Swenson's mind, this was not a condition of publishing but 'merely a suggestion made for conceptual reasons'. But whether gently invited or brusquely told to drop the ending. Burgess felt in no position to argue: he needed the advance, was pessimistic about finding an alternative US publisher, and knew his financial security rested on getting his name known on the other side of the Atlantic. The twenty-first chapter was therefore cut - and not restored in the US until 1988, twenty-six years later. In the preface he wrote to that 1988 edition, 'A Clockwork Orange Resucked', Burgess portrays himself as an Alex-like pawn, caught up in a political struggle that went way beyond commercial publishing: 'My book was Kennedyan and accepted the notion of moral progress. What was really wanted was a Nixonian book with no shred of optimism in it.'
Perhaps the first author ever, if his version of events is to be believed, to suffer from an American need for pessimism, Burgess had the comfort of knowing that foreign translations of the book, into French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Romanian, Russian, Hebrew and German, were based on the English version. Yet most people know A Clockwork Orange in its truncated US version. Why? Because this was the text which Stanley Kubrick worked from when he came to make his film of the novel in 1972. Burgess had known of Kubrick's project before he was invited by Warner Brothers to a private preview of the film, in London, in the autumn of 1971. He had even written a script, which, like several others, Kubrick had rejected. It seems surprising, in the circumstances, that Kubrick was not aware of the unabridged English version, but if Burgess's autobiography is to be trusted it was the author himself who apprised him of it after the private screening. It was the source of some tension between them - along with the fact that Burgess had sold the film rights for a pittance to Kubrick's producers, and reaped no benefit when it became a huge international success. There may have been some competitiveness, too, exacerbated by the implication of some critics that though Burgess was the originator of A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick was its true artistic spirit. An interviewer in the Transatlantic Review, James B. Hesemath, put this thought with embarrassing bluntness in 1976, suggesting to Burgess that he'd been a 'lesser English novelist', whose novel had been 'more or less forgotten', until Kubrick's film. Burgess was understandably touchy at the suggestion, and replied that, if anything, Kubrick was a creation of his.
There were other tensions. Burgess had been an admirer of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and hoped the film of A Clockwork Orange would aspire to a similarly imaginative 'visual futurism'. He was to be disappointed. In the novel, the rapes, attacks and knifings ofAlex and his gang are partly veiled by language: as the author explained, 'to tolchock a chelloveck in the kishkas does not sound as bad as booting a man in the guts.' Kubrick's film uses equivalent veiling or parodic techniques, but to Burgess the violence felt stark and unfiltered none the less. Privately, he was worried, and - a Catholic, after all, sensitive to these matters -suspected the film of being pornographic. Publicly, he did not feel able to denounce it, and when it was released in the US in December 1971 he was soon caught up in the publicity. Early in 1972 he wrote an enthusiastic article about the film from New York for The Listener, describing it as 'very much a Kubrick movie, technically brilliant, thoughtful, relevant, poetic, mind-opening'.
By this point, the film was becoming a cause celebre, and with Kabrick himself reluctant to defend his moral purpose, it was Burgess who appeared on chat shows (often in the company of the film's lead actor, Malcolm McDowell) to explain what A Clockwork Orange had intended. The attendant publicity had its farcical moments: in New York, an Indian (or native American) threatened him with a tomahawk, and a striptease artist, enclosing her photograph, offered to come to his bed. But there was a serious side to the controversy. The film, and book, were accused of being an incitement to violence. In Britain, questions were asked in Parliament, and the banning of the film was urged. In the US, it was reported that four boys, dressed in droog style, had gang-raped a nun in Poughkeepsie. The report was inaccurate (the boys had not seen the film), but the charges of immorality did not go away. In due course Kubrick himself withdrew the film from distribution in Britain, where it remains unavailable to this day. Burgess felt his novel's reputation had been permanently tainted.
Always resourceful, Burgess used some of these experiences in his novella The Clockwork Testament, written in ten days in 1974 and featuring his old alter ego Enderby, here the author of a screenplay based on Gerard Manley Hopkins's The Wreck of the Deutschland which becomes a controversial film. The scenes include an excruciating television interview, and convey something of Burgess's strange experiences on the chat-show circuit. If it fails as a novel, it may not only be because it was written too quickly, but because of Burgess's essential ambivalence towards Kubrick's film. In 1987, he produced his own dramatic version of A Clockwork Orange, 'a play with music', intended to provide a definitive text which would stem the flow of bad amateur stage versions, but also be a kind of reproach to Kubrick, showing him how the novel might be adapted visually without distorting its spirit. (A stage direction at the end of Act Two reads: 'A man bearded like Stanley Kubrick comes on playing, in exquisite counterpoint, Singin' in the Rain on a trumpet. He is kicked off the stage.') The crucial point about this play version is that it includes the book's final chapter.
The lopping of this chapter from Kubrick's film, and from the US edition of the novel, infuriated Burgess for two reasons. First, there is the violation of the book's structural - even numerological - unity. Burgess divides A Clockwork Orange into three sections, each beginning with the same punkily defiant question: 'What's it going to be then, eh?' There are twenty-one chapters in all: twenty-one is the age at which children traditionally become adult, and it is in the twenty-first chapter that Alex sees the light and puts the errors of youth behind him. Burgess would also have been struck by the aptness, in a novel about growing up, of there being seven chapters in each section: an implicit allusion to Shakespeare's seven ages of man; As all this suggests, A Clockwork Orange is the most carefully constructed of novels.
Burgess's second objection to the loss of the last chapter is that it destroys the book's moral integrity. He felt there was little point in writing a novel which didn't allow for moral growth, and found something glib, cynical and sensationalizing in the abridgement. Alex is often called 'amoral', and it's true that, to begin with, he lives for the present, having few hopes of the future. 'Why, you've got everything in front of you,' he's told, cheerily, to which he replies, bitterly: 'Yes . . . Like a pair of false groodies.' But his willingness to learn from those older than himself- or as he puts it, 'to slooshy what some of these starry decreps had to say about life and the world' - is established as early as Chapter 2. It is picked up again later, when, in prison, he reads the Bible for enlightenment and comfort (though after his cure, the Bible, like Beethoven, turns him off: 'all I found was about smiting seventy times seven and a lot of Jews cursing and tolchocking each other, and that made me want to be sick'). All this prepares the ground for Alex's reform. There is no deus ex machina in his eventual getting of wisdom. All he lacks is rime, and the three years that pass in the course of the book are what make the difference. The final chapter opens with Alex in a milkbar with his three droogs and seemingly back to his old tolchocking ways. The first hint of change comes when he refuses to buy the usual round for the women at the bar: 'I don't like just throwing away my hard-earned pretty polly, that's what it is.' Alex tells his droogs he has 'some thinking to do', and accidentally reveals, to their derision, that he's in the habit of carrying a picture of a baby in his wallet. He has a new taste for romantic music, too, for Lieder 'very quiet and like yearny'. 'It was like Ďsomething soft getting into me,' he reflects as he walks the streets down. Ripe for conversion, his epiphany comes when he meets his old friend Pete, and is introduced to his wife. Envying Pete, Alex dreams of family comforts he'd like for himself: the hot dinner! on the table, the warm fire, the companionship, the baby gurgling in the cot. The change is on him.
Eric Swenson, Stanley Kubrick and a number of critics have found this last chapter too blandly optimistic: to end with Alex's cynical return to his violent ways ('I was cured all right') is, they say, tougher and more realistic. But this is to ignore the continuing pessimism that qualifies Burgess's happy ending. Alex may reach maturity, but his son will later have to pass through adolescence and all the mayhem it entails - 'And so it would itty on to like the end of the world, round and round and round.' There is no callow triumphalism here. Alex will have his descendants, and Burgess sees no means of stopping the cycle of adolescent violence, except with methods, whether aversion therapy, eugenics or other forms of socio-psychological programming, which are dehumanizing, morally unacceptable and a usurpation of God.
This leaves the question of whether A Clockwork Orange is not, as Burgess self-accusingly put it, "a work too didactic to be artistic', 'pure art dragged into the arena of morality'. Novelists, . it's agreed, should show, not tell, but science fiction invariably has an urgent moral purpose, which makes it a suspect genre. Burgess himself wrote two other allegories, or futfics: The Wanting Seed, published in the same year as A Clockwork Orange, which imagines a world so overcrowded and short of food that cannibalism has become widespread; and 1985, a response to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, a novel which had made a deep impression on him. 'Dystopias or cacotopias are only a kind of warning to hang on to what freedom one has,' Burgess once said, and the freedom he felt to be under threat when he wrote A Clockwork Orange was that of individual choice. His immediate target was the American psychologist B. F. Skinner, who believed that the work he had carried out on behaviour modification in animals could be brought to the human domain. An heir to Pavlov and the conditioned response, Skinner wanted to abolish notions of man as an autonomous, free agent, and had a vision of a planned society. His 'inventions' included teaching machines and mechanical baby-minders, and he also published a Utopian novel, Walden Two, which imagines a society where 'We can achieve a sort of control under which the controlled, though they are following a code much more scrupulously than was ever the case under the old system, now feel free.' Behind Skinner lay other frightening theories of people-control, including the experiments of Nazi doctors. Burgess was also disturbed by accounts of new behaviourist methods of reforming criminals. His book, even before Kubrick's film, caught the anti-mechanistic spirit of the culture, or counter-culture, of the sixties, and took its place, somewhat awkwardly, alongside Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, the works ofR. D. Laing, and other books attacking the erosion of individual rights by penal and medical institutions.
There is certainly a danger, especially in its middle section, of A Clockwork Orange becoming a one-sided protest against mind-control. But even there Burgess doesn't silence argument, but makes it part of the novel's texture, as a debate unfolds between the prison 'charlie' or chaplain (who may owe something to Graham Greene's whisky priest), the government psychologist, Dr Brodsky, and the 'Minister of the Inferior':
'Choice,' rumbled a rich deep goloss. I viddied it belonged to the prison charlie. 'He has no real choice, has he? Self-interest, fear of physical pain, drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. Its insincerity was clearly to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.'
'These are subtleties,' like smiled Dr Brodsky. 'We are not concerned with motive, with the higher ethics. We are concerned only with cutting down crime ó'
'And,' chipped in this bolshy well-dressed Minister, 'with relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons.'
There's not much doubt whose voice Burgess sympathizes with here: in what he intended as an 'allegory of Christian free will', his support goes to the chaplain. Alex must be able to choose to be good, he must be an orange, capable of growth and sweetness, not a wound-up clockwork toy. But defending Alex's human rights is not the same as glamorizing his crimes. Another voice we hear is that of the old drunk set on by Alex and his droogs, who speaks for all the ordinary, innocent citizens who suffer at the hands of the brutal young: 'What sort of a world is it at all? Men on the moon and men spinning round the earth like it might be midges round a lamp, and there's not no attention paid to earthly law nor order no more.' Space may have been conquered, but life on earth is getting worse. The lodger whom Alex's parents take in during his imprisonment also rants against
the selfish young and their mindless crime. But the government attempt to defeat criminals like Alex by depriving them of their minds - a literal form of mindlessness - is no solution. Youth, Burgess seems to be saying, must have its fling, however wild. A well-run state will moderate the dangers. But ultimately the only cure is age. In the preface to his play version of A Clockwork Orange, Burgess quotes The Winter's Tale: 'I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting.'
A Clockwork Orange went on nagging away at Burgess right up until his death in November 1993. In March that year, one month after the murder of a two-year-old child in Liverpool, James Bulger, by two ten-year-olds, Burgess reflected, in an article for the Observer, whether his novel might not have contributed in a small way to a 'cult of violence' among the young. There are beliefs we cling to and will not let go,' he wrote:
it must be considered a kind of grace in my old age to abandon a conviction that was part of my blood and bone. I mean the conviction that the arts were sacrosanct, and that included the subarts, that they could never be accused of exerting either a moral or an immoral influence, that they were incorrupt, incorruptive, incorruptible. I have quite recently changed my mind about that.
This protective attitude to the arts was really a desire to justify the corrupt elements in the greatest literature of all time. That of the Elizabethan stage. It was a wish not to see William Shakespeare as a violent writer. . . .
But I begin to accept that, as a novelist, I belong to the ranks of the menacing.
There are echoes here of the late Yeats asking himself, 'Did that play of mine send out certain men the English shot?' But it is not quite the mea culpa it may seem: Burgess continues to defend A Clockwork Orange in the article, insisting that it taught, at most, 'a style of aggression', not aggression itself. Even so, he concedes too much. A Clockwork Orange needs no apology. It is a work of the highest artistic and moral integrity, as relevant now, and as linguistically alive, as it was when it first appeared.