My rating: 4 of 5 stars
[Spoiler Alert] Dark, haunting, disturbing. I enjoyed reading the full, original version–the one published in the UK. That is not where the book ends off in the American version or the movie for that matter.
This is not exactly an end-of-the-world book, but it does show you England in a state of decline under a decadent, socialist (?) government. The violence towards humans and the license afforded the entitled and, to be frank, useless Alex (and his droogs) will ring a bell with some of youth culture today. In this Burgess was able to glimpse the shape of future things to come.
At the end of the book Alex starts to think about the permanent things in life–family, work, marriage, children. In this, I think, he was wrong. The shape of our modern post-WW2 ‘liberal’ world order is one of the disenchantment–teaching people not to love anything at all, with the assumption that people will not fight. After all, people only fight about things they care about. And if people don’t care about anything–their homeland, their people, their heritage, their god, their future–then we will have that twisted vision of peace which assumes that peace is nothing more than an absence of violence. The revival of populism (Trump) and nationalism (Brexit) reveal the disintegration of this program for disenchantment.
But Alex (and Burgess) was living in a world wherein marriage and family still had a sort of enchantment to them–a sense that they were among the permanent things. But we, in the West, have destroyed that enchantment. The only thing truly wicked anyone can do anymore is tell someone else that what they are doing is wicked. We have traded meaning for power. But a rootless power carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. Ergo, the West: a civilization without a future and unable to consider its past, and is actively breeding itself out of existence. Call it unnatural desolation, if you will.
If anything, our present is darker than the world of Alex because redemption and maturation were options for Alex. Not so for the droogs of today, who are more mediocre in their pernicious acts just as they are beyond redemption in our disenchanted saecula.