A Clockwork Orange

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Although I had several book suggestions from my friends up next on my “to read list”, I started this book until I could get the chance to acquire those. Having heard its name multiple times, I got this novel last year without knowing any more about it. I excitedly started it as soon as I brought it home, but right from the first page, I was faced with multiple odd words like “droogs, rassoodocks, mesto, vesch, mozg, peet, deng” and became frustrated with not being able to understand most of what I was reading. Although the novel is mainly in English, these strange words prevented me from understanding the entire meaning of the sentences, and unfortunately, being too eager to dive into a new fictional world, I moved on to a new book. Few months in and having forgotten why I stopped the first time, I thought I’d give A Clockwork Orange another try – nope!

Finally, I picked it up for the third time a few days ago – this time, expecting what was coming. So, I did some more intensive research beforehand. These “gibberish words” were none other than Anthony Burgess’s own made-up Nadsat language: a Russian-inspired, secret slang language used by the teenagers in this dystopian setting. For the first few pages, I tried to guess the meanings of the words based on the context. While it worked for some of the simpler ones, I couldn’t quite figure out all of the words and had trouble moving along. At that point, I started using an appendix of all of the Nadsat words I found online (Appendix). I read the first couple of chapters with my book in one hand and my phone with the glossary open in the other hand. There were instances where I did have to look up the same word several times as there were too many to remember in such a short time. But, with each page, I began to become familiar with more and more of the words, and by the last third of the book I was able to read 99% comfortably without needing to look up any. By the end of the novel, Burgess not only told me a story, but he also taught me a whole new language – one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen an author do with his/her literature.

As for a quick recap of the plot: the story revolves around a group of teenagers who terrorize the public after dark with robberies, assaults, and even murder. The rest of the story focuses on the dystopian government’s unconventional methods of “curing” our antihero. That is the most I should say so as not to ruin the rest. However, the novel focuses on themes like good & evil, free will, and violence – a lot of violence. The book is very dark with many graphic scenes (the main reason for getting banned from multiple high schools). However, it does have a lot of dark humor that makes up for some of the more heavy themes.

I wanted to use the book’s own title as the name of the blog post since it is strange enough to begin with (its meaning is more fun to discover while reading the novel). Described online as a form of metafiction (“fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality”), the title is actually the name of a book written by a character within the novel itself. Simply put, this book is filled with many dark twists and turns, including lots of secrets the author has hid along for us to find! For those who have read the book, I would love to hear your perspective and thoughts about it! What started as an infuriating piece of literature has definitely become one of my new favorite books.

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