From a think-piece on the legacy of Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, written for the Telegraph UK, published October 1st of this year:
Few writers, whatever the claims made for them by literary critics, ever manage to spawn big cultural moments. One who genuinely did so was Anthony Burgess, with his novel A Clockwork Orange. And, as novelists are often contrary by nature, he was highly ambivalent about this state of affairs. Burgess would disparagingly refer to the book, published in 1962, as a “novella”, regarding it as an inconsequential sliver of his Brobdingnagian canon. He blamed (and there’s really no other term for it) the book’s resonance on the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation, which appeared nine years later.
My generation was obsessed with this stylistic, inventive affair, a movie that spurned both mainstream Hollywood concerns and European art house affectations to stake out a unique terrain for British independent cinema. Kubrick’s movie was an influence on the Ziggy-era David Bowie, and it was those cool credentials that made me backtrack to the film, which I first saw at a late-night screening several years after its release. As is generally the way of those things, far fewer of us had enjoyed any exposure to the novel. As a writer who has had many of his own books adapted for screen, I’m a little uncomfortable at conceding that I was in this camp.
Much of Burgess’s enmity towards his creation stems from the missing last chapter in the American editions of the novel. His US publisher omitted it on the quasi-religious principle, beloved of that culture, that over here all is good, while across the street evil abounds. This is the childlike thinking that allows authors, film-makers and governments to create monsters in order to terrorise and manipulate the domestic population of that nation.
In this final chapter, Burgess has Alex growing out of his wrongdoings, looking back and regarding it as all a little bit sad and embarrassing – the antics of daft kids – and, as the cliché goes, determined that his own children won’t make the same mistakes he did. Basically, it’s the beautiful truth of redemption, and the stunningly mundane lesson of real life. It profoundly isn’t dramatic; but it has social truth, intellectual honesty and the intrinsic morality of proper storytelling. This raises the uncomfortable question: which is more important to the novelist? To the reader?
Burgess originally agreed to dispense with chapter 21 for money but, once he had made enough, insisted that it was reinserted. He was correct in doing this, although you can understand why Stanley Kubrick, though filming in Britain, chose to work from the US edition and omitted it. This understandably was a running sore for Burgess, though his ire was directed not at the film-maker, with whom he remained on good terms, but his American publishers.
Read the rest of this intriguing piece at the link provided above. Also, if you plan on reading any of Irvine Welsh's novels, I'd recommend Filth. It's pretty crazy.