A CLOCKWORK ORANGE: Digital revival of the literary ultra-violence

By Pablo Medel. October 8, 2012


Anthony Burgess’ renowned dystopia celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. Many might remember the film, released nine years later. In fact, thanks to the film the book sold like hotcakes. That’s the way it goes. Alex's shocking story, that violent guy with a spider painted on his face –kilometric eyelashes for those who remember the screen version– and his droogs –that deranged gang that hides behind masks– is published again by the London based publisher Random House, only this time it’s published as an electronic edition for the use and enjoyment of the restless thumbs of digital tablets.

Loyal to the publishing spirit of these digital times, this new edition for iPad of A Clockwork Orange goes beyond simple text: it reviews the source behind its creation, includes correspondence between Burgess and the editor, the book contract, interviews with the author –the Evening Standard’s is highly recommended–, its connections with his other novel 1985 –his tribute to the dystopian writer par excellence– and countless reflections on ultra-violence, the film and theatre adaptations of the novel, the use of nadsat –that Cockney slang with Slavic influences used by the adolescent narrator to tell us his horrifying story–, the ethical diatribes of a Catholic Burgess, the disturbing behaviourism in The Ludovico Technique –who can forget the scenes of Alex’s forced persistence of vision?– or, of course, the obvious influence of that German genius that went one musical step ahead and transitioned from Classicism to Romanticism. Yes, Beethoven.

This is a very interesting app –with an elegant and perfectly structured design– which also has an audiovisual collection of interviews that explain in depth the answer to many questions a restless reader would like to know about the novel. Here we find the champion of English literary postmodernism, Martin Amis; his biographer, Andrew Biswell; the blogger Laurie Penny; his editor and friend, Kevin Jackson; or, among others, Gabriele Pantucci, his agent, with a highly recommendable reflection on the dystopias of those days. Worth to mention are also the curious parallelisms between Burgess's novel and the untranslatable Finnegans Wake by James Joyce or the linguistic influence of the Irish poet Gerald Manley Hopkins, discoverer of sprung rhythm –that abrupt rhythm with semantic rhymes and disproportionate alliterations.

The literary and linguistic side of Burgess is shown in this multimedia version of A Clockwork Orange, which includes the censored chapter 21 –Warner forced Kubrick to rule out the original ending– and remembers really harsh moments that also led to the creation of that new futurist language –nasdat–, like when the author witnessed how American soldiers attacked and raped his wife or the moment he heard in a London pub the Cockney expression that entitled the novel: “as queer as a clockwork orange”. Which also holds a semantic coincidence: in Malay –Burgess was also a teacher in Malaysia– orang means man.

From these lines we take off our bowler hats to celebrate this happy reunion with the clockwork man… who is now digital.

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