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A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess, adapted as a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. It is widely accepted as a successor to the other great British dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Set a few years in the future, it follows the career of a teenager, Alex. His main pleasures in life are classical music and random acts of violence (actually, "ultraviolence"): he tells his story in a teenage slang called "Nadsat", a variation of English with Russian slang.

Warning: wikipedia contains spoilers

Eventually Alex is caught, and "rehabilitated" by a program of aversion therapy[?], which though rendering him incapable of violence (even in self-defence), also (as an unintended side effect) makes him unable to enjoy his favourite classical music.

The moral question of the book, is that Alex is now "good", but his ability to choose this has been taken away from him, his "goodness" is as artificial as the clockwork orange of the title.

Eventually Alex falls foul of some of his former victims, and the political fuss that ensues results in the state removing his conditioning; he gleefully returns to his early habits but finds he has lost the taste for it. The book ends with him realising that his violent phase is over, but that it was inevitable. He thinks of starting a family, while thinking that his children will be as violent as he was, for a time. The US edition had the final chapter removed, and ends on a darker note: listening joyfully to music again, and eagerly anticipating his return to creating havoc.

The book was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971, starring Malcolm McDowell as Alex and featuring a soundtrack by Wendy Carlos. (It would appear, from one of Burgess' later novels, The Clockwork testament, that Burgess himself may not have been too pleased by the adaptation that made it to the screen)

In Britain the sexual violence[?] in the film was considered extreme at the time, with the press blaming the influence of the film for an attack on a homeless person. The outcry annoyed Kubrick so much that he personally withdrew the film from distribution in the United Kingdom. As a result, the film could not be seen in Britain for some 27 years, until after Kubrick's death.

Rated X on its original release in the United States, the film was nonetheless nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (it lost to The French Connection) and reinvigorated sales for recordings of Beethoven's ninth symphony. Later, a censored R-rated version was also released in the US; both the original X-rated and the later R-rated version are today available on VHS and DVD.

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Clockwork Orange is also the nickname of the SPT underground line of Glasgow, Scotland

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