April 29, 2019
Companion manuscript to A Clockwork Orange discovered in the Burgess Archive
by Ryan Harrington
Viddy it up, my droogs, a new manuscript has been discovered in the Anthony Burgess archives.
It is not exactly a sequel to his best-known novel, A Clockwork Orange, nor is it fiction; it is more like a philosophical reflection on that 1962 classic.
Titled A Clockwork Condition, the unearthed 200 page manuscript remains unfinished, but nevertheless contains some savory trivia nuggets for fans.
According to the BBC:
Burgess himself described the work as a “major philosophical statement on the contemporary human condition,” outlining his concerns about the effect on humanity of technology, in particular media, film and television.
It also explains the origins of his novel’s unusual title.
“In 1945, back from the army,” an extract reads, “I heard an 80-year-old Cockney in a London pub say that somebody was ‘as queer as a clockwork orange.’
“The ‘queer’ did not mean homosexual: it meant mad … For nearly twenty years I wanted to use it as the title of something … It was a traditional trope, and it asked to entitle a work which combined a concern with tradition and a bizarre technique.”
A Clockwork Condition will also reveal Burgess’s thoughts on the controversy surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.
The director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Professor Andrew Biswell, has speculated that the manuscript remains unfinished because Burgess—despite having strong opinions on his career, crime, and punishment—realized he simply wasn’t as strong a philosopher as he was a novelist.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.