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Giving Offense: Essays On Censorship [Paperback]

J Coetzee
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Nov 1997
This is an 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. Coetzee argues that a destructive dynamic of belligerence and escalation tends to overtake the rivals in any field ruled by censorship. From Osip Mandelstam commanded to compose an ode in praise of Stalin, to Breyten Breytenbach writing poems under and for the eyes of his prison guards, to Aleksander Solzhenitsyn engaging in a trial of wits with the organs of the Soviet state, the book focuses on the ways authors have historically responded to censorship. It also analyzes the arguments of Catharine MacKinnon for the suppression of pornography and traces the operations of the old South African censorship system.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (8 Nov 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226111768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226111766
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 586,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting For the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In the early 1990s, an instructive shift took place in public discourse in South Africa. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the fewer legal restraints, the better 5 Jan 2008
By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Offensive to Censors 7 July 2009
Format:Paperback
Not what you would think i.e. a book criticizing censorship, but about how its done and its effects on writers and society. Not always easy and many of the references can seem obscure but another important part of understanding writers and what they are doing. Although I'm glad Coetzee is a novelist and essayist, it seems to me his passion is of the poet and the desire to shine a light on the "meaning of and why writers write" and this is manifest throughout this book as it is in all his work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the fewer legal restraints, the better 5 Jan 2008
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
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