A Clockwork Orange

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Title of a book and a film: the book, by Anthony Burgess, set a few years in the future, follows the career of a teenager, Alex. His main pleasures in life are classical music and random acts of violence: he tells his story in a teenage slang called `Nadsat' (invented by Burgess with a number of borrowings from the Russian language). Eventually he is caught, and `rehabilitated' by a program of aversion therapy, which though rendering him incapable of violence (even in self-defence), also makes him unable to enjoy music. The moral question of the book, is that Alex is now `good', but his ability to choose this has been taken away from him, his `goodness' is as artificial as the clockwork orange of the title. Eventually Alex falls foul of some of his former victims, and the political fuss that ensues results in the state removing his conditioning; the book ends with him listening joyfully to music again, and eagerly anticipating his return to creating havoc.

It was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971, starring Malcolm McDowell as Alex. (It would appear, from one of Burgess' later novels, The Clockwork testament, that Burgess himself may not have been too pleased by the adaptation that made it to the screen)

In Britain the sexual violence in the film was considered extreme at the time, with the press blaming the influence of the film for an attack on a homeless person. The outcry annoyed Kubrick so much that he personally withdrew the film from distribution in the United Kingdom. As a result, the film could not be seen in Britain for some 27 years, until after Kubrick's death.

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