A Clockwork Orange | Critical Essay by Anthony Burgess

This literature criticism consists of approximately 6 pages of analysis & critique of A Clockwork Orange.
This section contains 1,619 words
(approx. 6 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Essay by Anthony Burgess

Critical Essay by Anthony Burgess

SOURCE: "Alex on Today's Youth: Creeching Golosses and Filthy Toofles!," in The New York Times Book Review, May 31, 1987, pp. 7, 18.

In the following essay, which takes the form of an interview conducted by Burgess with Alex, the main character of A Clockwork Orange, Burgess examines Alex's personality by having him critique contemporary youth culture.

This month W. W. Norton & Company published a new edition of A Clockwork Orange, including the 21st chapter, which had appeared in the British edition in 1962 but was dropped from the first American version. In that chapter, the teen-age thug Alex, who is the narrator, tires of violence and resolves to turn to a new way of life. Anthony Burgess has had a running argument with the publisher ever since about that chapter, and has expressed strong feelings about Stanley Kubrick's film, which followed the American version of the book. Now, to mark the 25th anniversary of the novel's publication, The Book Review asked Mr. Burgess to interview the mature Alex about today's youth. The author has always insisted that a reader of the novel will quickly comprehend Alex's peculiar language, which includes a number of words adapted from Russian. Since the interview is rather brief, however, a small glossary is provided here of terms the meaning of which might not be obvious from the context in which they are first used.

A 'Clockwork' GlossaryA 'Clockwork' Glossary

applesins oranges
bezoomny crazy
britva razor
chelloveck man
doomat think
dratsing fighting
drencrom a narcotic
golosses noises
govoreet talk
gromky loud
jeezny life
kneeg book
koopat buy
krovvy blood
malchick boy
mekansky mechanical
mir peace or the world

A 'Clockwork' Glossary (continued)A 'Clockwork' Glossary (continued)

nagoy naked, stripped
nogas feet
nozh knife
platties clothes
plott body
pomnit understand
rookers arms
sdach change
sinny movie
skaz say
slooshy hear
slovar dictionary
slovo word
smeck laugh, ridicule
toofles sneakers
vellocet a narcotic
veshch thing
voina war
yahzick tongue, language

[Burgess]: Alex—if I may call you that—there's always been some doubt about your surname.

[Alex]: Never gave it, brother, to no manner of chelloveck. The gloopy shoot that put me in the sinny—Lubric or Public or some such like naz—he gave me like two, Alex Burgess and Alex Delarge. That's because of me govoreeting about being Alexander the Big. Then he forgets. Bad like editing. Call me Alex.

In 1962, when the book about you was published, you were a nadsat, teen-ager that is. Now you must be about 42 or 3 or 4. Settled down, finished with the ultraviolence. Raising a family. Pillar of society.

For you, little bratty, I am what I was. I am in a book and I do not sdacha. Fixed like, ah yes, forever and never, allmen.

Sdacha?

Pick up the old slovar some time, my brother. Shonary, Angleruss.

Fixed forever and never, allmen, as you skaz. Eternal type of molodoy aggression. And yet there are changes. The youth, or molodoy, of the space age is not what it was in 1962.

That old kneeg was in the space age. In it there are chellovecks on the old Luna. It was like pathetic.

Prophetic?

And pathetic too. The jeezny of all chellovecks is like pathetic and very pathetic. Because they are always the same. Because they are mekansky applesins. That being the Russ like naz of the kneeg written by Burgess or F. Alexander or whatever his naz is or was. And you would know what?

To put it plain, your opinion of youth today.

They are not like what I was. No, verily not. Because they have not one veshch in their gullivers. To Ludwig van and his like they give shooms of lipmusic prrrr. It is all with them guitars and creeching golosses. And their platties. It is all jeans and filthy toofles. And tisshuts.

What are tisshuts?

They are like worn on the upper plott and there is writing on them like HARVARD and CALIFORNIA and GIVE IT ME I WANT IT. Very gloopy. And they do not have one missal in their gullivers.

Meaning not one thought in their heads?

That is what I skazzed.

But they have many. They are against war and all for universal peace and banning nuclear missiles. They speak of love and human equality.

What they want they will not get. There will always be voina and no mir, like old Lion Trotsky or it may be Tolstoy was always govoreeting about. Chellovecks are all like very aggressive and do not sdach. The Russkies have a slovo for it, two really, and it is prirozhdyonnuiy grekh.

Let me consult my ah Angleruss slovar. Odna minuta—it says here original sin.

Real dobby. Original sin is good and very good.

The young say their elders have ruined the world, and when they are not trying to rebuild that ruined world with love and fellowship they withdraw from it with hallucinogens.

That is a hard slovo, O my brother.

I mean that they take drugs and are transported to heavenly regions of the inner mind.

Meaning that they are in touch with Bog and all his holy angels and the other veshches?

Not God, in whom most no longer believe. Though some of them follow the one you would call the bearded nagoy chelloveck who died on the Cross. Indeed, they grow beards and try to look like Him.

What I skaz is that these veshches, like drencrom and vellocet, are not good for a malchick. To doomat about Bog and to itty off into the land and burble about lubbilubbing every chelloveck has to sap all the goodness and strength out of a malchick.

Do you consider the youth of today to be more violent than the generation to which you belong?

Not more. Those that want deng or cutter to koopat their teeny malenky sniffs and snorts and jabs in the rooker must use the old ultraviolence to take and like grab. But such are not seelny, strong that is. The ultraviolence is less now of the molodoy than of terror by air and land, O my brother. Bombs and guns, they were not ever my own veshch. Very cowardly, for it is ultraviolence from a long long long like way off. Dratsing is not what it was. It was better in what they call like the Dark Ages before they put on the like lights. The old britva and the nozh. Rooker to rooker. Your own red red krovvy as well as the krovvy of the chelloveck you are dratsing. And then there was another veshch I do not pomnit the slovo of all that good.

Style, you mean style?

Style and again style. Style we had. And the red krovvy did not get onto your platties if you had style. For it was style of the nogas and the rookers and the plott, as it might be tansivatting.

Dancing?

That is the slovo that would not like come into my gulliver. The yahzick of the kvadrats I could never get my yahzick round.

Kvadrat means quadratic, doesn't it? And that means square. By using such terminology you give away your age. But let us return to this business of the music preferred by the young.

It is not music. It is gromky and bezoomny and like for little children. There is no music like Ludwig van and Benjy Britt and Felix M. and Wolfgang Amadeus. And what the molodoy of now slooshy is not music. And the slovos are like pathetic. What I say to these molodoy chellovecks is that they must like grow up. They must not smeck at what is gone behind. Because that is all we have.

You seem to me to be ah govoreeting about the preservation of the past. You seem to me also to be ah skazzing that artistic creation is a great good. And yet you ah jeezny was dedicated to destruction.

It was the bolshy great force of the jeezny that was in myself. I was molodoy, and none had taught me to make. So break was the veshch I had to do. But I get over it.

You get over it? Meaning you grow up?

There is no kneeg about me growing up. That is not writ by no matter of writing chelloveck. They viddy me as a very ultraviolent malchick and not more, ah no. To be young is to be nothing. That is why I skaz to the molodoy of now that they must not be as they are. What they have to do is to like grow up.

Can you transport yourself to the future, or rather your part in the future—which has not been written about and, I speak with some authority, never will be—and deliver a final message to the world?

In the yahzick of the mir at like large?

Yesli bi mozhno.

Your Russian is deplorable, but I take it you mean "if possible." Very well. I speak as a taxpaying adult. And I say that the only thing that counts is the human capacity for moral choice. No, I will not speak. I will sing. I will take Beethoven's setting of Schiller's "Ode to Joy" in the final movement of the glorious Ninth, and I will put my own slovos, I mean words, to it:

        Being young's sort of sickness,
        Measles, mumps or chicken pox.
        Gather all your toys together,
        Lock them in a wooden box.
        That means tolchocks, crasting and dratsing,
        All of the things that suit a boy.
        When you build instead of busting,
        You can start your Ode to Joy.

Thank you, Mr. ah—

Bog blast you, I haven't finished.

       Do not be a clockwork orange,
       Freedom has a lovely voice.
       Here is good and there is badness,
       Look on both, then take your choice.
       Sweet in juice and hue and aroma,
       Let's not be changed to fruit machines.
       Choice is free but seldom easy—
       That's what human freedom means.

Gloopy sort of slovos, really. Grahzny sort of world. May I now, O my brother, return to the pages of my book?

You never left them.

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This section contains 1,619 words
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