A greatly expanded lexicon of the language Nadsat, as used by the delinquent Droogs in the novel “A Clockwork Orange”, is among the items which have recently been unearthed in a vast archive of the work and life of novelist Anthony Burgess, which is due to go on display at next year’s 50th anniversary of the novel.
Considered by some to be one of the most controversial modern works in the English language, “A Clockwork Orange” was first published in 1962 and concerns a Vicious teenage thug named Alex who along with his gang of “Droogs” goes around committing violent crimes until he gets caught and sent to prison for a very long time. Whilst In prison he volunteers to undergo a contoversial new treatment known as the Ludovico Technique, which he thinks will be an easy way out and which the authorities are hoping will cure his vioent tendancies.
Although he is most famous for writing this novel, Manchester-born Anthony Burgess, who died in 1993, also wrote at least 33 novels, 25 works of non-fiction, two volumes of autobiography, three symphonies, and more than 250 other musical works including a piano concerto, a ballet and stage musicals. The New Lexicon will be displayed alongside the libretto, a score for an unseen opera about Leon Trotsky, and a script for an unmade TV series about Attila the Hun.
Recently five song lyrics written by the author were set to music by the University of Manchester’s Head of Composition, Dr Kevin Malone, and performed for the first time as A Clockwork Operetta on the campus, the place where Burgess graduated in English Literature in 1940. The world premiere was performed by all-female ensemble the Ebb Trio, dressed as droogs, at the University’s Martin Harris Centre. Dr Malone’s music draws on Beethoven, Burgess’s musical hero, but also makes reference to the novelist’s popular stage version, which was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1990. Burgess also wrote a play about the life of Napoleon, which will have its premiere on BBC Radio next year.
In 1969 Burgess also wrote a screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s film version of “A Clockwork Orange”, which was ultimately rejected by the director, but he did read it before writing his own version, and although Kubrick’s violent rendition was critically acclaimed, it was withdrawn from cinemas by the director himself for 27 years until his death in 2001. Happily Burgess’ original Screenplay for the film survived and is among the items which have been discovered in the archive. It is laced with new Nadsat words which were not used in the film. Nadsat, being a melding of English and Russian, which the droogs spoke in the original novel.
More work is also coming to light every day. Recently another piece of music was discovered, as well as a pair of driving gloves belonging to Liana and a tape recording for his music The Eyes of New York, which is not transcribed anywhere. The extraordinary resource, which has been left to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation by Burgess’s widow Liana, also includes hundreds of papers, letters and original compositions, and has been newly housed in a renovated building in a regenerated area of the city and is a bulging testament to the writer’s prolific literary and musical talent.