A Conversation for 'A Clockwork Orange' by Anthony Burgess

USA v UK version

Post 1

Researcher 170889

Thanks for the info on the differences between the USA version and that of Britain. I have not read this novel, but if I do, I shall be sure to get the author's version (ie, UK). Ironic that the the USA version removes the readers free will to read or not read the entire novel, which is about free will. The only valid version of any novel is the one the author intended, and if it is 'better' without the final chapter, then a devotee of an author has the additional information that the author did not know where to quit, or could not endure letting his characters 'end like that'. I am outraged by this publishing demand, especially since it is something I would not have known about had I read the book previously. Are there any other cases of this kind of bowdlerization on the part of American publishers (or others)?

USA v UK version

Post 2

Emily 'Twa Bui' Ultramarine

There is a problem with the whole concept of different editions. You say 'The only valid version of any novel is the one the author intended', and often this is indeed the case. However, there are often problems - as with Shakespeare! Almost every edition of Shakespeare bears differences to others, simply because we don't know what he *did* originally intend. The 'original' texts of these plays are the 'Quarto' and 'Folio' editions, which although printed very shortly after his death often create great inconsistencies between two copies of what is nominally the same play. Shakespeare also used to be cut during the 18th and 19th centuries in order to avoid 'offending' the audience - for example, all indication of humanity and genuine love on the part of the black Othello for the white Desdemona might be removed, as might the intensely sexual humour of plays such as 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'The Taming of the Shrew'. I know they aren't novels, but the problem exists there as well.

One of the problems with novels also arises with translation - when I wanted to read Paulo Coelo's 'The Alchemist', I had to read it in English translation, because I can't read Spanish. An interesting case surrounding the translation of a novel is that of Yevgeny Zamyatin's 'We', originally written in Russian, but first published in English translation (in America, out of interest). This was because 'We' was a thinly-disguised attack on Communist Russia of the 1920s, and was suppressed in Russia until the 1980s.

Another case of enforced censorship of a work comes, perhaps surprisingly, in Anne Frank's 'Diary of a Young Girl'. Anne's surviving father, Otto, apparently felt uncomfortable about revealing certain elements of his daughter's account - for example the depth of her relation with Peter - and thus elements deemed 'too strong' were removed from the book, and were not revealed in published form until the last decade.

So there you go... and do read the book - you'll love it. smiley - winkeye

USA v UK version

Post 3

Captain Swan

I just thought I'd mention that when Anthony Burgess agreed to the changes made for the US imprint of 'A Clockwork Orange' he was completely strapped for cash (see 'You've had Your Time', the second volume of his autobiography). Sadly at the time his wife Lynn was on the verge of a 'portal episode' that would kill her. Burgess himself was still under the shadow of the diagnosis given a few yeasrs earlier that he had approximately a year to live. Artistic integrity is a wonderful thing but it does not pay the rent (this I know from personal experience), it does not keep your wife alive and it is only posterity than can judge you. Burgess himself was (eventually, at least) fairly sanguine about the whole episode. Prior to his experience with 'ACO' he had suffered at the hands of publishers, and he did suffered the same fate regularly afterwards. Readers might like to know that in his later years the one thing that excercised his mind most regularly was the fact that the refigerator in his flat in Italy broke down so often that he never knew if he was eating fresh food or tainted food. H ealays came home fearing that what he ate would, if not kill him, disturb him...well, you get the picture.

As a novelist he was capable of exceptional vision. His, in his own words, 'idle dissertation on the life of Shakespeare', 'Nothing Like the Sun' is one of the most breathtaking examinations of what we hope of the Bard but do not know.

To me, Burgess and Adams emerged from he same soup. Witty polymaths who could have lived for a thousand years and not finished teaching. It's hard to suggest a better way of having a life than that.I sulaute them both.

USA v UK version

Post 4

Captain Swan

Just had another thought about the differences beween the US and UK versions of 'A Clockwork Orange'. The former contains a glossary of terms, which Burgess felt removed much of the pleasure in the journey of reading the work.

Eric Swenson, the vice-president of the US publisher, W. W. Norton Inc., insisted that the final chapter be removed as he saw the work as a fable rather than a novel. Burgess's main objection to its removal was that it destroyed the structure of the book. He had written it in three sections of seven chapters so that the total number of chapters added up to twenty one, the 'symbol of maturity'.

On the whole the book was reviewed far more favourably in America than in the UK. The author felt that the US critics understood what he was trying to say. However, in England the book met with a very cool, and at times hostile, reception. The TLS, for example, described the language used thus: 'A vicious verbiage...which is the swag-bellied offspring of decay...English is being slowly killed off by her practitioners.' It's safe to assume that it didn't make the TLS's Books of the Year for 1962!

USA v UK version

Post 5


'A vicious verbiage...which is the swag-bellied offspring of decay...English is being slowly killed off by her practitioners.'

Sounds like the US version of anything on television or cinema these days, especially if you practice this verbiage at yelling volume and avoid any trace of a thought process.

USA v UK version

Post 6


Can someone give me a brief overview of what is included in the extra chapter? I have read the novel (not seen the movie yet) and wish to find out about this chapter without purchasing another copy.

USA v UK version

Post 7


In a nutshell, here is the last chapter. We meet Alex at the Korova Milkbar, with a new set of droogs. They are planning the typical evening of Ultraviolence, but Alex is tired of it all and goes off by himself. In a small restaurant, he meets his old droog Pete, with Pete's pregnant wife. Pete is happy in his new-found domesticity, and Alex is dismayed that the meaningful things in life seem to be passing him by. He bids Pete and the wife goodbye and goes off to find a life that has meaning, challenges,and fulfillment.

It might seem a little contrite, but it fits in with Burgess's theme of redemption through free will.

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