A weekly update on various books I'm reading and anything else contemporary that I believe to be interesting

Friday, February 29, 2008

Malchicks, Chellovecks, and Ptitsas

I have just started my next book, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and I must say it is quite interesting thus far. It’s about a rebellious young boy named Alex of about fifteen years of age. He and his three friends, Pete, Georgie, and Dim, roam about a New York City set in the future about forty years ahead of its time. Alex is a power hungry person who will go at unreasonable lengths to prove to his cronies that he is in control. The four prowl the city at night causing all kinds of trouble. The most interesting thing, however, is the unusual language of the novel. Alex acts as the narrator, and speaks in somewhat of a made up, or less civilized version of English. He uses words such as viddy, chelloveck, tolchock, and gloopy. When I first started reading, it was extremely difficult to understand what was going on, and what Alex was saying. However, by about the third or fourth chapter I became hooked to the story line and was slowly beginning to understand what was being said. For example, viddy deals with seeing or vision, ptitsas refer to females, and krovvy is blood. So even though the words were foreign to my eyes until I picked up A Clockwork Orange, the context and plot allowed me to translate the words in my mind as I read. Referring to Sparknotes every once in a while, to make sure my readings were correct didn’t hurt either. I thought I should refer to an online source as well to find the meaning of these made up words, and why Burgess decided to write in such an unusual fashion. It turns out that the made up words are called nadsat. It is a combination of misconstrued Russian and American slang. While I was reading, I could tell that some of the words, such as chelloveck, were derived from a Russian type language. The reasoning behind the use of nadsat is for the reader to become more cordial with Alex and be able to think like him. Nevertheless, once you really get into the storyline, A Clockwork Orange becomes an easy read. Nadsat adds substance to the book and isn’t much of a problem to understand at all after the first few chapters.

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