“Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.”
“It’s funny how the colours of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on a screen.”
What’s it going to be then, eh? This book was recommended by my boyfriend, and having thoroughly enjoyed other dystopian novels (The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984) I was intrigued to discover what this novel was about. I thought it was a good book; interesting and (naturally) thought-provoking. (I felt 1984 was cleverer in this way, but ACO was still chilling, especially the process used to ‘change’ criminals, which sounds surprisingly plausible.)
There were three things that stood out to me most whilst reading. Firstly the language. The novel is told from the point of view of a teenage boy called Alex, so is written in a new slang adopted by the youth, called nadsat. For me, it was definitely one of my favourite parts of this book. This new language is a mix of strange looking words, phrases that rhyme with our phrases and archaic sounding words. (My favourite is ‘cancer’ which means cigarette.) It’s confusing to read and understand at first (I had to really concentrate and re-read words) but as I began to understand what each word meant everything started to make more sense, and I began to forget it was a strange, new language. It was so inventive!
The second aspect that particularly stood out was the violence. The narrator, Alex, is a violent person: a criminal and murderer eventually caught and imprisoned. There are a numerous scenes that are violent, but the descriptions lost their power due to the barrier nadsat creates.
The third thing I thought was particularly interesting was the final chapter. After reading it I discovered that Burgess had been unsure whether to keep it in the novel or not. I’m glad he put it in! I like how it has the same structure as his opening chapter, but with some changes in the plot and structure. These differences create a sense of hope. My edition of this book contains essays by Burgess, and an interview in which Burgess claimed Alex would go on to become a great composer after the novel ended. It may be me being naive but I like to believe that this is the case!