Anthony Burgess on the message of A Clockwork Orange

The current volume of The New Yorker is the "Science Fiction issue." In it, a previously unpublished 1973 essay by Anthony Burgess about his novel, A Clockwork Orange.

NewImageIn “The Clockwork Condition” (p. 69), an essay written in 1973 but never published, Anthony Burgess reflects on the “true meaning” of his most famous novel, A Clockwork Orange. In addition to commenting on the inspiration for the work, and its main character, Alex, Burgess offers an argument about the nature of good and evil and the necessity of free will, as seen through the prisms of Nazi Germany and the Resistance, Catholicism and Calvinism. “We probably have no duty to like Beethoven or hate Coca-Cola, but it is at least conceivable that we have a duty to distrust the state,” Burgess writes. Conformity is natural, and perhaps preferable for many people, he explains, but “when patterns of conformity are imposed by the state, then one has a right to be frightened.” Ultimately, he writes of A Clockwork Orange, “what I was trying to say was that it is better to be bad of one’s own free will than to be good through scientific brainwashing.”

The Clockwork Condition