A Clockwork Orange (Roman)

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A Clockwork Orange or The Clockwork Orange ( English A Clockwork Orange ) is a 1962 published novel by Anthony Burgess . Stanley Kubrick filmed the work in 1971 under the same title . Time magazine ranks this novel among the top 100 English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. In 2015, 82 international literary critics and scholars voted the novel one of the most important British novels .

The title is probably inspired by a Cockney saying for something very strange: as queer as a clockwork orange . Others derive it from the Malay word “orang”, which also occurs in “ orangutan ” and means something like “human” - in other words, clockwork human . Both interpretations boil down to the fact that a person is something organic and natural (like an orange) that cannot be made to function like clockwork with meaningful results.


The novel is set in England in the near future. Alex, a really intelligent teenager , tells his own story: For the fun of violence, he and his three friends spend their time brutally beating up, robbing and, if they are women, rape victims. Fights and knife fights with other gangs with whom they compete for supremacy in their area are the order of the day. There are drugs like alcohol consumed. The police are largely powerless in the face of the prevailing crime and sometimes degenerate into a gang of thugs themselves. Alex's parents are unable to even try to influence him. He doesn't respect her in the least.

Alex's friends are no longer happy with his leadership role in the group. There are disagreements, and on one of their raids, they abandon him and leave him to the approaching police. The victim of their crime unfortunately dies of the abuse, so that Alex is charged with murder and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Because of his submissive behavior, Alex is suggested for a new kind of brainwashing experiment to re-educate him to be a good citizen. In doing so, he is conditioned to become incapable of violence because the thought of violence immediately makes him sick. However, this does not change his moral attitude towards violence. The priest warned him beforehand of the consequences:

"If a man cannot choose he ceases to be man."

"If a person cannot choose, he ceases to be a person."

After 14 days of treatment, Alex is released as "cured". It is becoming increasingly clear that citizens who are integrated into society want to “miss a few” because they now have the opportunity. He meets some of his victims and is beaten up.

One of his victims (whose wife Alex raped) is - ironically - committed against the brutality and inhumanity of the state system. It tries to drive Alex into suicide in order to profit politically from his death, but also because by chance he becomes aware of who this "victim of modern society" really is. However, Alex survives and wakes up in the hospital. From then on he is capable of violence again.

The political rulers come to terms with him in order not to have to suffer from his history in the upcoming election. The system opponent is locked away. Alex gets a well-paid job and makes new friends, with whom he in turn causes mischief. But he no longer enjoys the violence. He notices that he is getting older, and when he meets one of his former “droogs” ( Nadsat for “buddies”) who has just started a family, he dreams of a family himself and finally notices that the clockwork keeps turning and he cannot escape it.

Moral question

In this novel, Burgess asks whether it is worse to condition people to be good or to give them the freedom to be bad. Burgess is on the side of freedom. In this sense, “A Clockwork Orange” is a continuation of the debate between Augustine of Hippo and Pelagius , whether man is bad from birth ( original sin ) and needs to improve, or whether he has the free choice between good and bad. In Pelagianism , God's grace is secondary to free will to do good or bad.

Despite all the brutality, the novel is funny and entertaining, especially because of the language and the way in which the protagonist is portrayed from the first-person perspective. Alex has no inner moral authority at all and is incapable of empathy . He is intelligent and loves music, especially Ludwig van Beethoven . In a newspaper article, Alex reads that a theorist thinks that you can get a grip on today's youth better if you get them interested in the arts. Alex can only laugh about it, because music (and especially in his case classical music, classified as more cultivated than rock music ) arouses in him all the more bestial desires (see Chapter I, 4).


His language is a youth slang constructed on the basis of Russian . Burgess turns the Russian golowa (head) into gulliver , choroscho (good) horror show and sluschat (hear) slooshy . This language and its made-up words, which are used in such a way that one can decipher them even if one does not understand Russian, makes a significant contribution to the reading experience.

The 21st chapter

The original book version contains three parts of seven chapters. Burgess deliberately chose the number 21 as it used to symbolize the age of majority. However, the New York publisher wanted to remove chapter 21, and Burgess had to accept as he needed the money. Elsewhere, the book appeared with all 21 chapters. Since Stanley Kubrick filmed the US version , the end that Burgess actually intended is missing from his film.

In the 21st chapter Alex realizes that this cannot go on in his life and finds the right path without outside influence; that was judged to be “too British” in the US and they deliberately wanted a more pessimistic ending. Burgess writes: “ My book was Kennedyan and accepted the notion of moral progress. What was really wanted was a Nixonian book with no shred of optimism. "(German:" My book corresponded to Kennedy'schen views and accepted the idea of ​​moral progress. What you really wanted was a book suitable for Nixon without a spark of optimism. ")


At the end of April 2019 it was announced that an unpublished manuscript with the working title "The Clockwork Condition", which was written 1972–1973, had been found in the estate of Anthony Burgess.



Original English editions

  • 1962: UK, William Heinemann, 1962, first edition
  • 1962, US, WW Norton & Co Ltd 1962,

German editions and translations

  • Clockwork Orange. Novel. (=  Heyne books . Volume 928 ). 1st edition. Heyne, Munich 1972, DNB  730199010 (original title: A clockwork orange . Translated by Walter Brumm).
  • The clockwork orange. Novel . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-608-93519-3 (original title: Clockwork orange. Translated by Wolfgang Krege ).
  • Clockwork orange. Roman (=  Heyne books, Heyne general series . Volume 10496 ). Heyne, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-453-13079-0 (Original title: Clockwork orange. Translated by Wolfgang Krege, with glossary).
  • A Clockwork Orange (=  Reclams Universal Library . Volume 9281 foreign language texts ). Reclam, Ditzingen 1992, ISBN 3-15-009281-7 (English, with vocabulary information and appendix).
  • Clockwork orange. The original version . Edited and with an afterword by Andrew Biswell. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-608-93990-3 (Original title: Clockwork Orange . Translated by Ulrich Blumenbach ).

Audio book


  • Thomas Nöske : Clockwork Orwell. About the cultural reality of negative utopian science fiction. Unrast, Münster 1997. ISBN 3-928300-70-9 .
  • Arno Heller: Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange. In: Hartmut Heuermann (Ed.): The science fiction novel in Anglo-American literature. Interpretations. Bagel, Düsseldorf 1986, pp. 236-254. ISBN 3-590-07454-X

Individual evidence

  1. The best British novel of all times - have international critics found it? In: The Guardian . Accessed January 2, 2016.
  2. cf. the commentary in the Reclam edition of Uhrwerk Orange
  3. ^ Foreword to the first complete edition in the USA
  4. Unpublished sequel to "Uhrwerk Orange" discovered - derStandard.at. Retrieved April 26, 2019 (Austrian German).
  5. independent.co.uk