A Clockwork Orange—the 1962 Anthony Burgess book, not the 1971 Stanley Kubrick movie—turns 50 this year. To celebrate the anniversary of one of the most memorably dystopian works of fiction ever published, W.W. Norton has released A Clockwork Orange: 50th Anniversary Edition($25). Edited by Andrew Biswell, the director of the International Burgess Foundation, it’s being billed as “the restored text,” as it’s the closest edition of the book ever published to the original manuscript. If you’ve only read the Penguin edition that came out along with the 1971 film adaptation—or if you’ve never read A Clockwork Orange at all—you should check it out, because it’s an amazing read and may well change your life.
The thing most people focus on with A Clockwork Orange is that it’s, well, a really fucked up story. Narrator and protagonist Alex, age 15, is a purely amoral thug, all too willing to rain down his stylized brand of ultra-violence on random citizens before going home to his parents’ flat and listening to “Ludwig Van” in bed. He’s sent to prison for murder, where he becomes involved in a cutting-edge yet draconian program of reform based on aversion therapy. When he gets out, his readjustment to society is rocky, and the young man who was once an aggressor becomes a victim. Also, he and his friends speak in a strange, Russian-influenced language called Nadsat. Look, it’s really too much to explain, you need to read the book. I did, and I also met with Biswell to find out what it was like getting inside Burgess’ head as he made this edition.
‘A Clockwork Orange’ (The Book) Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary With a New Edition