Anthony Burgess enjoyed comparing himself to other novelists, poets and playwrights. He sometimes spoke of himself as belonging to a group of writers who had emerged from provincial cities and had, through talent and persistence, made their mark on the British literary establishment. In his biography of Shakespeare, for example, Burgess suggests that, like Shakespeare, […]

Obscenity & the Arts began in an oblong room, the engine-house of a former mill, situated within an area once dubbed ‘Little Ireland’, surrounded as we were, by Anthony Burgess’s furniture. Indelible images of twentieth century criminality blazed large on a screen at the very end of the room. An articulate and astute Mark Blacklock […]

Reading Ulysses by James Joyce was perhaps the first time that Anthony Burgess had experienced forbidden literature. He first read Ulysses as a school boy, though his recollections of the event are inconsistent. In Little Wilson and Big God, he claims a teacher ‘had brought it back from illiberal Nazi Germany in the two-volume Odyssey […]

Although A Clockwork Orange is the most controversial of Anthony Burgess’s novels, with its themes of ultraviolence and state control, the book was ignored by the censors in most countries (not including Malta). But another Burgess novel, The Worm and the Ring, was suppressed not on the grounds of obscenity, but because it fell foul […]

A few months after Anthony Burgess had moved to Malta in November 1968, his personal library was inspected by officials of the Postmaster General’s Office in Valletta. Malta’s strict laws against the vilification of religion, obscenity and immorality meant that a number of Burgess’s books were confiscated and destroyed. The official documents relating to the […]

When the novel Lolita appeared in 1955, Vladimir Nabokov was a little known Russian novelist who had emigrated to the United States. After Olympia Press published the novel in Paris, Nabokov quickly became famous, not for his virtuosic control over language but for the scandal his novel had provoked. Olympia Press was generally regarded as […]

A year before Anthony Burgess moved to Malta in 1968, he became involved in a controversy about the banning of books closer to home. On the question of whether or not books should be suppressed because they might incite people to commit crimes, he robustly came down on the side of free expression. The Moors […]