Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Clockwork Orange – The Sour Sweetness of Original Sin

“[A] human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange – meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State. It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil. The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate. Life is sustained by the grinding opposition of moral entities. This is what the television news is about. Unfortunately there is so much original sin in us all that we find evil rather attractive.
[M]y little squib of a book was found attractive to many because it was as odorous as a crateful of bad eggs with the miasma of original sin.”
           Anthony Burgess, 1986
      “A Clockwork Orange Resucked” – Introduction to the UK version of his novella
Enjoy this 1972 interview with Anthony Burgess and Malcolm McDowell, on Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange (1963) and Stanley Kubrick's eponymous feature (1971).

This conversation interestingly interlaces Burgess' reflections on the genesis of the novel and his insights on language, man, and free will, with McDowell's opinions on the creative freedom of working with Kubrick, and on his (successful) attempt to turn an “evil force” into a “real personality,” that of Alex Delarge. 

As Burgess comments, “Alex is a man in that he is violent, as men are, he loves beauty and he loves language. These three things go all together.”

The beauty of classical music is surely one of the things Alex is most attracted to. 
The rhythm, the fluidity, the colour, the taste, and the evocative force of language are surely some of the things Burgess can most finely render on the page.

“Oh, bliss, bliss and heaven. I lay all nagoy to the ceiling, my gulliver on my rookers on the pillow, glazzies closed, rot open in bliss, slooshying the sluice of lovely sounds. Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three–wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk around my bed. Then flute and oboe bored, like worms of like platinum, into the thick thick toffee gold and silver. I was in such bliss, my brothers.”

A bliss counterpointed by violent drives.

“After that I had lovely Mozart, the Jupiter, and there were new pictures of different litsos to be ground and splashed, and it was after this that I thought I would have just one last disc only before crossing the border, and I wanted something starry and strong and very firm, so it was J. S. Bach I had, the Brandenburg Concerto just for middle and lower strings. And, slooshying with different bliss than before, I viddied again this name on the paper I'd razrezzed that night, a long time ago it seemed, in that cottage called HOME. The name was about a clockwork orange. Listening to the J. S. Bach, I began to pony better what that meant now, and I thought, slooshying away to the brown gorgeousness of the starry German master, that I would like to have tolchecked them both harder and ripped them to ribbons on their own floor.”


Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. London: Penguin, 1996. 

1 comment:

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