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OBSCENITY & THE ARTS — ANTHONY BURGESS — with Germaine Greer and Andrew Biswell

OBSCENITY & THE ARTS — ANTHONY BURGESS — with Germaine Greer and Andrew Biswell




Obscenity & the Arts is the first new work from Anthony Burgess in over twenty years. The story of his struggle with censorship, religious conservatism and a vengeful government on the island of Malta between 1968 & 1974 has never been told before.

Renowned authors Germaine Greer (The Female Eunuch and The Whole Woman) and Andrew Biswell (The Real Life of Anthony Burgess) provide newly commissioned essays on the wider themes provoked by Burgess’s difficulties in Malta—which still resonate today: how to define and discern obscenity and pornography, and the recurring problem of state censorship. The fulcrum of the work is a full transcript of Burgess’s lecture at the University of Malta in 1970—previously printed as a short-run pamphlet from the Malta Library Association in 1973 but, made available here to an international readership for the first time. The book also incorporates previously unseen archive documentation and photography (including images taken by the author himself) which emphasise Burgess’s extraordinary term in Lija.


Obscenity & the Arts is a non-fiction compendium of source materials and learned explication. A pocket-size work of virtuosity and craft.



Praise for Obscenity & the Arts:

“Coming from a country which in the past suffered under a system of censorship that was at once pernicious, crippling and absurd, I welcome this fascinating account of a little-known but fascinating passage in the life of one of the finest English writers of the twentieth century. Anthony Burgess was an unremitting defender of artistic freedom, as Obscenity & the Arts amply attests.”
    John Banville, author of The Sea and The Untouchable

“This is a pleasing stuffat, as they may or may not say on Malta. Burgess was nothing if not dependable—dependably brilliant, dependably self-mythologising, dependably sorry for himself… As ever the genius and the charlatan are so interlinked that you don’t know which is the host and which is the parasite. Not that it matters. He was, is, and always will be the greatest English writer of the second half of the twentieth century. This is a useful and stimulating addition to the oeuvre, and timely given the hypersensitivity of every group to criticism from without.”
    Jonathan Meades, author of Museum Without Walls and An Encyclopedia of Myself, writer-presenter of Ben Building: Mussolini, Monuments and Modernism

"It [Burgess’s lecture] is at times deliberately provocative, giving the equally provocative Greer plenty of easy targets. We are treated to the noisy exchange of two loose cannons firing at one another, although Burgess, being dead, cannot defend himself.”
    Margaret Drabble, TLS

“A beautiful little tome. It’s as gorgeous in real life as it is in pictures.”
    AIGA Eye on Design

“A vivid reminder of the liveliness of Anthony Burgess’s brain and his confrontational refusal to accept any kind of suppression or censorship.”
    Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape and The Soccer Tribe

“This is an excellent and significant book. It documents Anthony Burgess’s anti-censorship protest back in 1970 against the Maltese authorities’ ban on importing books which ludicrously caught titles such as Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. It may seem to us now like some Lilliputian struggle from another age in which a much-esteemed novelist is punished by exile. But it was an echo of a much larger struggle that had taken place in Britain only a few years before.”
    Alan Travis, Home affairs editor: The Guardian, author of Bound & Gagged: A Secret History of Obscenity in Britain

“I have enjoyed reading Obscenity & the Arts. The lecture is characteristically forthright, learned and amusing, and Andrew Biswell’s scholarly introduction puts it usefully in context. The book as a whole reveals much of interest about Malta at the time Burgess lived there. Germaine Greer’s lively commentary prevents the book from seeming over-indulgent towards its subject.  All fans of AB will want to have it on their bookshelves.”
    David Lodge, author of The Campus Trilogy and Consciousness & the Novel


“There has always been a vocal minority that knows how the rest of us should live, what we should see, read and think. Its barks often rally a pack that makes it hard to hear voices against it. In Anthony Burgess the twentieth century had a strong answering voice, and this new work is its backstage pass. It couldn’t be more timely, read it now – those barks are on the rise again.”

    DBC Pierre, author of Vernon God Little and Release the Bats


“In an age when freedom of expression is under grave threat, if not from the State then from fear engendered by social media pressure groups, this book, featuring Burgess’s trenchant opposition to censorship, is timely and important. Writers should never surrender!”
    D.M. Thomas, author of
The White Hotel and the Russian Nights tetralogy

“Pariah’s rescue of Anthony Burgess’s Malta speech is a timely excavation of social and literary history, a perfect opportunity to encounter or re-encounter Burgess’s splendid provocations, and an elegant piece of publishing in itself. It is also a reminder of how certain battles persist, and how we’d best remain bold and irritated enough to win them.”
    Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude

“Burgess seems to have been physically incapable of writing a dull sentence, no matter how unpromising his subject, and his brief butimpassioned account of the obscene and the pornographic continues to instruct and delight. Liberally coated with the fruits of Burgess’s vast reading — he refers, among others, to Swift, Shakespeare, Dante, Sartre and Céline — it is also charmingly idiosyncratic. Which other English author would reach for the term “enharmonic chord” to clarify his drift? Hats off to Pariah for bringing this treat back into print.”
    Kevin Jackson, author of Constellation of Genius: 1922 – Modernism Year One and editor of Schrader on Schrader


“Anthony Burgess had a very sane view of sex in literature. He believed that censorship was an evil. He knew that sometimes people looking for excitement might find literature. He approved of all kinds of excitement. I miss him and his wonderful work. He has left us a great treasury of wonderful books.”

    Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying and The Devil at Large: Erica Jong on Henry Miller

  • Accreditation & Specification:

    Contributors: Germaine Greer, Andrew Biswell, Adam Griffiths
    Editors: International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Jonny Walsh
    Digitisation: Anna Edwards
    Cover Design: Adam Griffiths
    Typesetting: Geoff Read

    Print: Offset Litho
    Cover Pantone: 186 C
    Paper: Stora Enso (Fin), GalerieArt (Bel) & Colorplan (UK)
    Format: Paperback (A-Format) Perfect Bound

    Published: 23rd September 2018
    ISBN: 9780993037863
    RRP: £10.99
    Trade: Central Books Ltd.
    Categories: Censorship, Biography

    Hand stamped upon purchase from
    200 copies in circulation signed by Andrew Biswell

  • Stockists Include:

    Whitechapel Gallery Bookshop, London
    London Review Bookshop, London
    The Abbey Bookshop, Paris
    Village Books, Leeds & Manchester
    Pathos & Penthos, Manchester
    Peste, Manchester
    The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

    Or order in at your local library

  • Also Found At:

    US Library of Congress
    Bibliothéque nationale de France
    Malta Book Festival '18
    Milan Art Book Fair '21
    Dublin Art Book Fair '21

£9.99 Regular Price
£7.99Sale Price
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