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Hardcover Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship Book

ISBN: 0226111741

ISBN13: 9780226111742

Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship

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Book Overview

Winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature. J. M. Coetzee presents a coherent, unorthodox analysis of censorship from the perspective of one who has lived and worked under its shadow. The essays collected here attempt to understand the passion that plays itself out in acts of silencing and censoring. He argues that a destructive dynamic of belligerence and escalation tends to overtake the rivals in any field ruled by censorship. From Osip Mandelstam...

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

the fewer legal restraints, the better

In these essays, J.M. Coetzee analyzes thoroughly and attacks the role and the (mis)use of censorship in arts. Taking Offense State censorship is an inherently bad thing. The cure is worse than the disease. `A censor pronouncing a ban, whether on an obscene spectacle or a derisive imitation, is like a man trying to stop his pen.s from standing.' Lady Chatterley's Lover LCL is a tale about the transgression of boundaries - sexual and sexualized social boundaries. D.H. Lawrence wanted `the end of taboos, the end of dirty language, the end of dirty books.' The Harm of Pornography (Catharine MacKinnon) MacKinnon treats pornography as a political issue, not as a moral one. She sees pornography as an instrument of male power, not pleasure. For her, male desire is one of the avenues through which male dominance realizes itself. She shows a `striking absence of insight into the desire as experienced by man.' Her analysis is also parochial, based only on specific US situations. Censorship and Polemic: Solzhenitsyn The heroic battle of one man against an enormous censor bureaucracy (more than 70,000 men). Osip Mandelstam and the Stalin Ode Stalin and his apparatus castrated a generation of writers, robbing it from its political power and its power of historical witness. Zbigniew Herbert and the censor In the face of the paranoia of state censorship, Z. Herbert opted for the `silence' solution. He chose to work with allegories, thereby defending the autonomy of art (the power of art to validate itself) and proving that poetry can give a vision of an ideal world. South-African censorship For the censor, the call for the end of censorship in the name of free speech is part of a plot to destroy the existing order. The censor has the right to take what steps are necessary to protect society. André Brink's device is Ars Longa: In the end, it is always the artist who wins, because one way or another truth will come out. For Breyten Breytenbach, `censorship is an act of shame. It has to do with manipulation, power, and repression. For the writer to consent to being censored equals self-castration. Erasmus: Madness and Rivalry Erasmus disguised himself into a fool in order to be able to criticize the Catholic Church (The Praise of Folly). Coetzee's portrait shows us Erasmus as an independent and impartial individual, but therefore insulted from all sides: `I would rather die than join a faction'. Coetzee's analysis is based on postmodernist theories. He shows us Lacan as a vitalist, an adept of Bergson's `acte gratuit' (`it is not at all necessary that the poet knows what he is doing; in fact, it is preferable that he doesn't know.') and Foucault as a romantic (`madness as a voice to contest reason'). J.M. Coetzee's book unmasks the real goal of censorship and the methods authors (try to) used to circumvent it. It is the work of a superb free mind. A must read for all lovers of art, and specifically literature.

Exceptional writing

I'll resist writing a large review for this book, because the reader should be allowed to make up their own mind. I bought this book after reading many of Coetzee's novels, and 'Stranger Shores'. 'Giving Offense', in my opinion, is a much stronger collection of work than 'Stranger Shores', which is also exceptional, simply because the essays relate to each other far better than those included in 'Stranger Shores'. One can read 'Giving Offense' essay after essay and stay within the same frame of mind. His essays about 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', Osip Mendelstam and Solzhenitsyn are my personal favourites. A very impressive book.
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