Opinion

Return to a dystopia

Return to a dystopia

The discovery of an unfinished manuscript, The Clockwork Condition, written in 1972-73 by English writer Anthony Burgess as a sequel to his A Clockwork Orange (1962), the story of a teenager and his cohorts who revel in untempered violence in a futuristic, totalitarian state — is set to lend the dystopian masterpiece a larger philosophical and moral context.

A writer of mostly comic work, Burgess’s relationship with his breakaway novel was complicated. He kept revisiting and revising it, before going on to publish a short, illustrated autobiographical novel, The Clockwork Testament (1974). The abandoned non-fiction sequel, which runs to 200 pages and was discovered from his archive at the Burgess Foundation in Manchester by director Andrew Biswell during cataloguing, sees Burgess return to ideas of crime, punishment, the intersection of technology and society and both the aggression and passivity that come from a repressive state culture. It also addresses the outrage that ensued after the release of Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 cult screen adaptation that was accused of inflaming copycat crimes. It had led the director to withdraw the film from public circulation.

“The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate. Life is sustained by the grinding opposition of moral entities,” Burgess had written in an introduction to the original novel. It’s that very idea he returns to in this sequel. In many ways, the future that Burgess had imagined is upon us. Caught in the quagmire of an unrelenting visual culture and states that want more and more control over its citizens, the sobering question that faces humanity is what Burgess tried to answer through his many explorations: What are the boundaries of free will and can it square up to the relentless challenges that come its way?