A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian novella by Anthony Burgess, first published in 1962. Set in a near future where youth violence thrives and punishment is meted out by a totalitarian state, the novel addresses human nature, morality, politics, and authority. It is narrated by Alex, the 15-year-old leader among a gang of ‘droogs’ – adolescent criminals who terrorise citizens with rape, hard drugs and ‘ultra-violence’. Sentenced for murder, Alex undergoes an experimental aversion therapy known as ‘Ludovico’s Technique’ before being released back into society, supposedly cured.
The novel is renowned for Burgess’s linguistic inventiveness. Burgess, who was born and raised in Manchester, drew on a range of influences including Russian, Cockney rhyming slang and Manchester dialect to form a teenage slang called ‘nadsat’ (Russian for ‘teen’) that is used by Alex and his gang.
Shown here is the American edition published in 1963, with cover art by Larry Turin. Controversially, the American edition was published without the final chapter, in which Alex chooses to reject violence using free-will.
In 1971 Stanley Kubrick adapted A Clockwork Orange for film. Although the film was a commercial success, its scenes of brutal violence sparked outrage among the British public. In 1974 the film was withdrawn from distribution in Britain. It was only screened again in 2000 after Kubrick’s death.
For more information, explore resources on A Clockwork Orange provided by The International Anthony Burgess Foundation.