A Clockwork Orange and other translations

Jun 1, 2012 | Language, Literature

This year marks the 60th anniversary of A Clockwork Orange, the highly acclaimed work of violence and youth culture written by Anthony Burgess, originally inspired by an assault on his wife during the blackout in London. Although Burgess himself dismisses the novel and was unhappy with the decision of the American publishers to omit the final chapter, radically changing the final outcome.

But as well as being one of the leading writers of the 20th century, Anthony Burgess was also an accomplished musician, linguist and translator. Burgess (born John Burgess Wilson in 1917) spent many years in Malaya during which he mastered Jawi, the Arabic script adapted for Malay, and taught himself Persian. He translated many of the best works of English literature, most of which were never published. He did, however, publish translations of Cyrano de Bergerac, Oedipus the King and Carmen, amongst others.

His love and interest in language is reflected in A Clockwork Orange, notably in the Anglo-Russian language, Nadsat, he invented for anti-hero Alex and his gang of ‘droogs’. He also invented a prehistoric language, Ulam, for the characters in the 1981 movie Quest for Fire and wrote about linguistics in the non-fiction works Language Made Plain and A Mouthful of Air.

Find out more about Anthony Burgess and his work.