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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A Clockwork Typewriter

Told by his wife at Christmas 1959 that he had an inoperable brain tumour and only a year to live, Anthony Burgess hurriedly put aside what ambitions he had to be a composer and started to write fiction. As it turned out, the story he used as inspiration for the words behind a preconceived title - A Clockwork Orange - was all too true.
Wound up by understandable anxiety and a determination to provide for his wife after death, Burgess sat down at his Olympia Splendid portable typewriter, surrounded himself with bottles of Scotch, milk and amphetamines, and packets of cigarettes, and began to punch out a modern literary classic that is as prophetic as it is a reflection on his own past.
The sound of the relentlessly clicking Splendid filled the small Wilson apartment in Hove for a feverish three weeks, until this masterpiece of a dystopian novella was complete. Burgess had not just created a new language, but an Orwellian landscape and a horrifying vision of disaffected, violent youth which was to haunt the world for the next half century.
As Australian reels from the outbreak of vicious, senseless mayhem on its streets, and the murder of young, innocent people by booze-crazed thugs, it's perhaps time for our judiciary to re-learn the lessons of A Clockwork Orange.
(This feature article was published in Panorama just before the release on DVD in Australia of Stanley Kubrick's movie version of A Clockwork Orange, which was more than 12 years ago now. It was certainly before I first used the Internet. A lot more information is now readily available, so please bear that in mind.)
The original 1962 dustjacket

John Anthony Burgess Wilson and Lynne Jones on their wedding day,
 in Bournemouth on January 22, 1942.


2 comments:

lettera2013 said...

One of the best pieces I've read about this contented bookend movie! We are great lovers of Burgess, this particular book and Stanley Kubrick's movie. I've thought that having Alex as the protagonist for the movie Kubrick used the movie conventions to the effect of bringing out the moral argument of Burgess - involuntary you sympathize with Alex and find yourself surprised to feel for a loathsome character like him. A great movie. I like how he uses contemporary architecture to great effect. The housing project in Thamesmead South, and the house of the writer, actually two houses, one for the outside, one for the interior. The latter is a design by Foster and Partners ( http://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/jaffe-house-(skybreak-house)/ ), the exterior is a project by Patrick Litchfield in Shipton Under Wychwood ( http://www.atroshenko.com/NSShiptonB.html ). The section with the Thamesmead housing project (which was finished only a few years before) is a prevision of the problems that this type of housing would show in the years that immediately followed - and sadly Thamesmead, is still known as a 'sink estate' .
Of course you must have spotted the Valentine in Alex' room. A telling attribute, because after all, it is Alex who, in the book, writes his story - and this then is his typewriter. Would it serve to further the ambiguous fame of this fiery red icon?

reinenust said...

One of the best pieces I've read about this contented book and movie! We are great lovers of Burgess, this particular book and Stanley Kubrick's movie. I've thought that having Alex as the protagonist for the movie Kubrick used the movie conventions to the effect of bringing out the moral argument of Burgess - involuntary you sympathize with Alex and find yourself surprised to feel for a loathsome character like him. A great movie. I like how he uses contemporary architecture to great effect. The housing project in Thamesmead South, and the house of the writer, actually two houses, one for the outside, one for the interior. The latter is a design by Foster and Partners (http://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/jaffe-house-(skybreak-house)/ ), the exterior is a project by Patrick Litchfield in Shipton Under Wychwood (http://www.atroshenko.com/NSShiptonB.html ). The section with the Thamesmead housing project (which was finished only a few years before) is a prevision of the problems that this type of housing would show in the years that immediately followed - and sadly Thamesmead, is still known as a 'sink estate' .
Of course you must have spotted the Valentine in Alex' room. A telling attribute, because after all, it is Alex who, in the book, writes his story - and this then is his typewriter. Would it serve to further the ambiguous fame of this fiery red icon?