A literature professor at Manchester Metropolitan University recently unearthed a legendary manuscript: a 200-page work titled The Clockwork Condition by A Clockwork Orange’s Anthony Burgess.
Don’t get too excited, Droog lovers. Colin Dwyer at NPR reports that Condition is not a sequel to the cult novel, but rather a meditation on the “condition of modern man” that was to be structured similarly to Dante’s Inferno. The manuscript was also something of a cash grab. After the release and success of Stanley Kubrick’s film version of book in 1971, a publisher reached out to Burgess, the pen name of writer and composer John Anthony Burgess Wilson: If he could write a brief follow-up to the novel, something that had the term “clockwork” in the title, he suggested, Burgess could ride the movie’s wave and earn some cash.
Burgess agreed to the deal while on a publicity tour in New York in 1972. Correspondence found with the manuscript shows discussion that the book would be illustrated with surreal photos and quotations from famous writers discussing freedom and the individual. But when he began working on it, the short book soon ballooned to 200 pages. Ultimately, according to a press release, Burgess shelved the project.
While rumors of a Clockwork sequel circulated for years, Burgess, who died at the age of 76 in 1993, was always coy about the project. That's why when Burgess scholar Andrew Biswell found the manuscript, a mix of typewritten pages and handwritten notes, while cataloguing Burgess’s papers at Manchester’s Burgess Foundation, he was especially excited.
“I was delighted, because I’d come across a reference to The Clockwork Condition — just one reference — in an interview from around 1975, where Burgess was asked, ‘Where is this book?’ And he said, ‘Oh God, that will never be published. That doesn't really exist,’” Biswell tells Dwyer. “And so that caused me to believe that the manuscript which we’ve now found was no more than an idea or a rumor — and in fact, the surviving manuscript is very developed, and there's a strong argumentative line to it.”
Allison Flood at The Guardian reports Burgess worked on The Clockwork Condition in 1972 and 1973. After Kubrick’s film, which follows the criminal exploits of “ultraviolence” aficionado Alex and his “droogs” in a dystopian future, was accused of spawning copycat crimes and pulled from circulation in the U.K., Burgess used the new project to opine on the controversy and expand on his views of crime, punishment and visual culture.
The manuscript also allowed him to fill in some autobiographical details left out of A Clockwork Orange. It reveals, for instance, where the title comes from: Burgess heard the phrase “a clockwork orange” from an elderly Cockney man in 1945 while he was in the army and kept the term in his back pocket for 20 years before finally finding a use for it in his most famous and problematic work.
So why did he stop work on The Clockwork Condition? “Eventually Burgess came to realize that the proposed non-fiction book was beyond his capabilities, as he was a novelist and not a philosopher,” Biswell tells Flood. “It was then suggested that he should publish a diary under the title The Year of the Clockwork Orange, but this project was also abandoned.”
Burgess did, however, eventually publish a short, illustrated novella in 1974 called The Clockwork Testament (Or: Enderby's End) that covers some of the themes he began in The Clockwork Condition, which is part of his semi-autobiographical Enderby series.
In the release, Biswell suggests there is enough material in a finished state to publish a version of The Clockwork Condition today. “It’s not finished, but there is quite a lot there,” Biswell tells Rob Picheta at CNN. “If you put the book together, you can see what might have been.” No plans to do so have been announced at this time.
This is not the first treasure dredged from Burgess’s papers, which were transferred to the Burgess Foundation after his death. Already, Flood reports that the foundation has found around 40 unpublished stories, including one unfinished manuscript for an ambitious dictionary of slang that Burgess also abandoned.