Pornography essay that almost cost author his Malta house set to be published as a book

‘A Clockwork Orange’ author Anthony Burgess had relocated to Malta in the late ‘60s: he had given a lecture about pornography that upset the Maltese Church to the point that authorities had seized his house

Anthony Burgess never set foot again in Malta after the Maltese authorities seized his house
Anthony Burgess never set foot again in Malta after the Maltese authorities seized his house

A pornography essay, which almost cost author Anthony Burgess his home in Malta, is set to be published for the first time as a book.

The news has made the rounds on international media as the essay in question had caused furore amongst the Maltese clergy and the authorities in an island where censorship laws were highly restrictive.

It was at the same time when films were censored, photographs of women in bikini torn to pieces and books confiscated.

Burgess, author of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, had delivered a controversial lecture at the invitation of the Malta Library Association. According to reports, the lecture proved to be extremely popular, attracting a 1,000-strong audience, dominated by the Catholic clergy.

News reports from 1974 showed “a highly indignant” Burgess telling the press in Rome that the house he had bought in 1968 in Malta had been confiscated by the Maltese government.

“The Maltese claim I've abandoned the property and have ordered me to surrender possession and the keys. This is a totally vindictive act — a naked confrontation between the state and the individual. I see this as an example of the anti‐British attitude now prevailing in Malta. It shows the influence of the Arabs and the Chinese on the present regime,” Burgess had said.

The book, along with previously unseen photos, is being published to mark the centenary of the writer’s birth. A foundation – The International Anthony Burgess Foundation – has also been set up.

The foundation’s director, a professor of English at Manchester Metropolitan University, also said Burgess had been provoked by the Maltese authorities when he first moved to Malta in 1968.

“He was trying to move in with his library when quite a large chunk of it was seized by the Maltese post office,” Andrew Biswell said.

Biswell recounted that when Burgess tried to recoup his books, the Maltese post office told him that they had to first read the books.

Among the books taken were everything by DH Lawrence and any featuring homosexuality, Biswell said.

“He struck up a correspondence with the post office asking for the books to be returned, and they said they would let him know as soon as they had read them.”

The lecture which landed him in hot waters with the authorities was delivered to a 1,000 strong audience, dominated by the Catholic clergy.

e cited a range of texts, from the Song of Songs in the Old Testament to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus – which he described as a “story of rape, murder and cannibalism” – to argue against banning books, quoting John Milton’s 1644 anti-censorship pamphlet, Areopagitica, that to destroy a good book is to kill reason.

Infuriated by the author’s audacity, the Maltese government moved to seize his home as the Burgess family was on holiday in Italy. It was only returned to him when the news made it to the Guardian’s front page.

More in Books