Contributors: Germaine Greer, Andrew Biswell, Adam Griffiths
Editors: International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Jonny Walsh
Cover Design: Adam Griffiths
Typesetting: Geoff Read
Print: Offset Litho
Published: September 2018
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.
“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.”
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.”
Author of Museum Without Walls, An Encyclopedia of Myself
and 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.”
"Burgess’s talk is radically forward-thinking."
“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.”
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.”
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.”
Author of The Campus Trilogy and Consciousness & the Novel
“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.”
Author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude
"I highly recommend this book. It is a beautiful object and compulsively readable. It also fits perfectly inside your jacket pocket, guaranteeing that you won’t be able put it down."
Manchester Review of Books