News | Thursday, 25th April 2019

‘The Clockwork Condition’: Lost sequel to A Clockwork Orange discovered in Anthony Burgess archive

Professor Andrew Biswell has unearthed the remarkable unfinished 200-page manuscript

One of the pages of The Clockwork Condition manuscript recently discovered
One of the pages of The Clockwork Condition manuscript recently discovered

A never-before-seen ‘sequel’ to A Clockwork Orange has been unearthed in the archives of its author, Anthony Burgess.

The Clockwork Condition is an unfinished 200-page manuscript, written by Burgess as a response to the moral panic surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s notorious 1971 cinema adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, which was accused of inspiring violent copycat crimes and banned by local councils in the UK.

Andrew Biswell, Professor of Modern Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University and author of a biography of Burgess, has discovered the remarkable lost work.

Burgess’s non-fiction manuscript, never published, was found among papers abandoned in his house in Bracciano, near Rome, where he moved in the early 1970s. When the house was sold after Burgess’s death in 1993, the archive was transferred to the Burgess Foundation in Manchester, where it is now being catalogued.

Burgess described The Clockwork Condition as a “major philosophical statement on the contemporary human condition". The book survives as a series of typewritten drafts, notes and outlines, in which Burgess develops ideas from his original novel, addresses the controversy surrounding Kubrick’s film, and puts forward new arguments about the possible dangers of technology and visual culture, especially film and television.

Podcast: Unearthing the lost sequel to A Clockwork Orange

The Clockwork Condition describes the 1970s as a “clockwork inferno”, with human beings reduced to the status of programs or cogs in the machine, “no longer much like a natural growth, not humanly organic.” Burgess writes about modern men and women as “searching for an escape from the bland neutrality of the condition in which they find themselves.”

Professor Biswell, who is also Director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester, said: “This remarkable unpublished sequel to A Clockwork Orange sheds new light on Burgess, Kubrick and the controversy surrounding the notorious novel.

Anthony Burgess (image: International Anthony Burgess Foundation)

“This is a very exciting discovery. Burgess’s only public reference to The Clockwork Condition was in a 1975 interview where he suggested that it had not developed beyond the idea stage.

“Part philosophical reflection and part autobiography, The Clockwork Condition provides a context for Burgess’s most famous work, and amplifies his views on crime, punishment and the possible corrupting effects of visual culture.

“It also casts fresh light on Burgess’s complicated relationship with his own Clockwork Orange novel, a work that he went on revisiting until the end of his life. As the film is re-released in UK cinemas and the Design Museum launches a major Stanley Kubrick exhibition in April, now is the right moment to re-examine Burgess’s complex and celebrated book.”

Correspondence discovered alongside the manuscript shows that the concept for The Clockwork Condition was agreed between Burgess and his collaborator, Thomas Collins, in January 1972, when the Manchester-born author was in New York on a promotional tour for the Clockwork Orange film.

The text of The Clockwork Condition was intended to be supplemented by surreal photographs and quotations from a variety of writers on the subject of freedom and the individual.

Envisaged as a philosophical work structured around Dante’s Inferno, one of Burgess’s favourite poems, the book was planned in sections using titles including ‘Infernal Man’, who was trapped in a world of machines, and ‘Purgatorial Man’ who was seeking to break out of the mechanical inferno.

Professor Andrew Biswell, who made the discovery

As the book project grew in scale and ambition, Burgess’s increased popularity following the Clockwork Orange film led him to take on a large number of other writing commitments.

Professor Biswell said: “Eventually Burgess came to realise that the proposed non-fiction book was beyond his capabilities, as he was a novelist and not a philosopher. 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.

“Instead he wrote a short autobiographical novel, which also features ‘clockwork’ in the title – The Clockwork Testament. Published as an illustrated novel in 1974, the book engages with the same thematic material he had intended to use in The Clockwork Condition, such as good and evil, original sin, and the problems of modernity and violence.”

“In theory it would be possible to create a publishable version of The Clockwork Condition. There is enough material present in the drafts and outlines to give a reasonably clear impression of what this lost Burgess book might have been.”

Extracts from ‘The Clockwork Condition’, an unfinished manuscript written in 1972-1973 by Anthony Burgess


Goodness is a matter of common sense, something required by the community, but truth and beauty remain values – totally useless and the only totally human things we’re capable of pursuing. This is the great age of communications, but what the hell are we trying to communicate about? Certainly not reality. The pleasures and diversions of the flesh are delightful, and, if God had anything to do with them, I’d thank God for them. The organization of societies is fascinating. Sport is thrilling. But none of these has anything to do with reality. What man must recognize as a human duty is the pursuit of what, behind the mess of phenomenon and delusion and multiplicity, really and ultimately exists – the final monad, the intellectual intimation that there is a God, the bare and bony idea with no nonsense about benevolence and justice. And, through the pursuit of beauty, he may gain not an intimation that God exists (which is for the scientific or philosophical intellect), but an indirect experience of the quiddity or whatness of God. This is what education should prepare us for. Unfortunately it doesn’t. And the television programmes and the films and the Daily Mirror are in the service of unreality, the hiding of the nature of the human duty and the doling out of anodynes as a substitute. If I wanted to use the term “evil”, I’d say that that kind of smothering is evil. If you want Christian language, I’d almost say that to discourage the seeking after reality is to commit the sin against the Holy Ghost.


 In 1945, back from the army, I heard an 80-year-old Cockney in a London pub say that somebody was ‘as queer as a clockwork orange’. The ‘queer’ did not mean homosexual: it meant mad. The phrase intrigued me with its unlikely fusion of demotic and surrealistic. For nearly twenty years I wanted to use it as the title of something. During those twenty years I heard it several times more – in Underground stations, in pubs, in television plays – but always from aged Cockneys, never from the young. It was a traditional trope, and it asked to entitle a work which combined a concern with tradition and a bizarre technique. The opportunity to use it came when I conceived the notion of writing a novel about brainwashing. Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus (in Ulysses) refers to the world as an ‘oblate orange’; man is a microcosm or little world; he is a growth as organic as a fruit, capable of colour, fragrance and sweetness; to meddle with him, condition him, is to turn him into a mechanical creation.

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