Category Archives: authenticity

The two endings of A Clockwork Orange

Getting wenches with child: Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale: Act 3, Scene 3

In the American version of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel, Alex resumes his life as gang leader after his head injury undoes the influence of the Ludovico Method. He returns, Dalrymple notes,

to what he was before, once more able to listen to classical music (Beethoven’s Ninth) and fantasise violence without any conditioned nausea. An authentic psychopath rather than a conditioned, and therefore inauthentic, goody-goody. Authenticity and self-direction are thus made to be the highest goods, regardless of how they are expressed.

This,

at least in Britain, has become a prevailing orthodoxy among the young. If, as I have done, you ask the aggressive young drunks who congregate by the thousand in every British town or city on a Saturday night why they do so, or British soccer fans why they conduct themselves so menacingly, they will reply that they are expressing themselves, as if there were nothing further to be said on the matter.

Anthony Burgess

In the British version, Alex

begins to lose his taste for violence spontaneously, when he sees a happy, normal couple in a café, one of whom is a former associate. Thereafter, Alex begins to imagine a different life for himself and to fantasise a life that includes tenderness.

Burgess

obviously prefers a reformation that comes spontaneously from within, as it does in the last chapter, to one that comes from without, by application of the Ludovico Method.

The novelist also suggests

the somewhat comforting message, at odds with all that has gone before, that Alex’s violence is nothing new in the world and that the transformation of immature, violent, and solipsistic young men into mature, peaceful, and considerate older men will continue forever, as it has done in the past, because deep inside there is a well of goodness, man having been born with original virtue rather than original sin (this is the Pelagian heresy, to which Burgess admitted that he was attracted). This, surely, is partly right. Criminality, statistically speaking, is an activity of the young, and there were few prisoners in the prison in which I worked who had been incarcerated for a crime committed after age 35. There seems to be a biological dimension to common-or-garden wrongdoing.

But, says Dalrymple,

a quietistic message—cheerful insofar as it implies that violence among young men is but a passing phase of their life and that the current era is no worse in this respect than any past age, and pessimistic in the sense that a reduction of the overall level of violence is impossible—is greatly at odds with the socially prophetic aspect of A Clockwork Orange, which repeatedly warns that the coming new youth culture, shallow and worthless, will be unprecedentedly violent and antisocial. And of Britain, at least, Burgess was certainly right.

Different endings: the UK and US editions

How Mobutu bared his teeth against the rotten imperialists

Prophet of ‘national authenticity’

One man who was keenly aware of the political advantages to be derived from assumption of victimhood was Mobutu Sese Seko, Dalrymple reminds us. In order, Dalrymple explains,

to overcome the effects of a colonial past, and in the name of authenticity, Mobutu decreed that all Zaïrian citizens abandon their European names — to which they had been accustomed since birth — and take on African ones. Likewise, no one was henceforth to wear a collar and tie; instead Mobutu had designed a national costume, which he imposed. In this way, he made himself all-important.

However,

when he had a toothache, he commandeered a jet aëroplane of the national airline and flew to Paris for dental treatment.

Leading by example: Mobutu models his abacost (‘à bas le costume’) menswear designs

Jet aircraft of the type commandeered by Mobutu for visits to the dentist

Efflorescence of violence

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-08-26-31

Dalrymple notes that according to a 44-year-old retired pop singer called Liam Gallagher (who is supposed once to have been an idol of the young), only boring, inauthentic florists fail to assault their customers for no reason whatever

Every ad agency’s dream

With Gerry Adams at the Bobby Sands and James Connolly commemorationSome observations on the next prime minister of Great Britain

Jeremy Corbyn, writes Dalrymple, has throughout his years in the House of Commons

voted for his beliefs, not for his career,

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.34.30refusing to join

the majority of the MPs at the trough of expenses.

While Tony Blair, for instance, is a public egalitarian in search of a private fortune, Corbyn is no hypocrite. He

lives his ideals. He is a man of grinding and unnerving integrity, a man of such probity that he would let the heavens fall so long as his version of social justice was done.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.40.08There is, says Dalrymple,

not a bien pensant cause in sight to which Corbyn does not wholeheartedly subscribe with the uncritical belief of an apostle, and for which he would be unprepared to go to the stake.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.28.50A point in his favour is that he does not appear to be

a man of erudition, culture or literary talent.

Another plus is

his evident authenticity by comparison with other politicians, most of whom are as synthetic as the toys that used to be put in cereal packets.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.39.09This dour monomaniac dresses

like a social worker from the 1970s, but at least it is from his own choice, not that of a public relations firm. He is genuine. He is not the product of an advertising agency, and by self-evidently not being such a product he is an advertising agency’s dream.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.49.21Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.47.52Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.46.24 Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.48.16