Reviewing my favourites, #1
Like a lot of people my age and from my tiny place of the world, I came to this book through punk music. A Clockwork Orange
had already gained some kind of kult following in the punk scene, when the German band Die Tote Hosen did the soundtrack for a Clockwork Orange stage play. The resulting album, „Ein kleines bisschen Horrorschau“, was extremely popular; the Single „Hier kommt Alex“ was so popular, it even reached my little backwater country. And while I didn't understand every single word, I got the essence of it. The wrath, the aimlessness, the helplessness, and the boredom too, all culminating in a wish to do... something, but never knowing what exactly. And while I watched the world falling apart around me, the need for violence, for lashing out grew. Without really understanding, I understood.
Fast forward, four years later, different country. The world had resettled a bit (doesn't it always?), but the punk music inspired by Burgess' work was still popular with my peers. Somehow, someone of us got hold of Stanley Kubrick's film. We were around 12, 13 back then – of course it blew our minds. I still didn't understand every word, being still pretty new to the language; but I didn't need to, because Burgess' evocative Nadsat slang worked on a deeper level beyond mere understanding, just like the music did (maybe it set the spark for me working with language? But that might be giving it a bit too much credit here). And the pictures burned themselves into my mind.
(Years later, we re-watched the film in school, when we did a term on utopia/dystopia. We had to read [b:Brave New World|5129|Brave New World|Aldous Huxley|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1433092908s/5129.jpg|3204877], which is immensely inferior to Burgess' work. But that's school for you.)
I actually just read the book about ten years later still, in my mid-twenties – in English then, first without, then with the last chapter (and no, I can't say which version I prefer). It still worked. Maybe it worked even better with some punk music next to Beethoven in my head and Kubrick's pictures in my mind.
Last but not least, Burgess introduced something to me that should become one of the things which always work to make me feel completely uncomfortable. And also one of my favourite plot devices in literature. I'm talking about the Ludovico technique, of course. The thought you can fuck with someone’s mind so completely that you can alter their personality, their very being, should stick with me and haunt me from there on. In quite a few of my favourite books, similar techniques get employed. Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?
I've seen and experienced some of the evil human beings can do to each other, so the answer to this questions doesn't come easy. While I see free choice as the most important thing, I've seen it becoming perverted. Does the good cause justify evil means? Does the possibility of something good becoming perverted justify viscous counter-measures? More of these questions. I have no answers.