"A censor pronouncing a ban, whether on an obscene spectacle or a derisive imitation, is like a man trying to stop his penis from standing up." - J. M. Coetzee
July 11, 2011 10:59 AM   Subscribe

If we have, at the back of our minds, a stereotype of the censor or the censor type, it is probably of some nondescript male bureaucrat who comes to work punctually at 8:30 in the morning, locks his office door behind him, and spends the day going through piles of books, underlining dirty passages in red ink and stamping pass or fail on the cover, or else pouring over strips of film with scissors at the ready, ready to snip out images of breasts and bums, who, when the clock at last strikes 5:00, emerges into the daylight, catches the bus home to some anonymous suburb and spends the evening watching reruns of sitcoms on television before donning his pajamas and falling into a dreamless sleep. Or if we're thinking not of full time censors, people who dedicate their professional lives to the business of censoring, but of part time censors, people who like to do a bit of censoring on the side, then we might imagine that retired teachers, clergymen and moral busybodies in general would be attracted to the craft. But the records of the South African system don't quite fit the stereotype.
- J. M. Coetzee, Nobel laureate author, speaks at his alma mater University of Texas Austin about his experiences with censorship in his native South Africa during apartheid. Coetzee mentions this essay he wrote about his time at UT Austin and a book he wrote on censorship, here's the preface to it.
posted by Kattullus (12 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a transcript?
posted by pmv at 11:18 AM on July 11, 2011

There should be - the talk is captioned. Can't find a link, though.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 11:26 AM on July 11, 2011

Here's the captions source page but it's not exactly reader friendly.
posted by Kattullus at 11:30 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always liked the descriptions of Captain Yossarian censoring in the opening pages of Catch-22. That's how it's to be done!
posted by Schmucko at 11:52 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

It isn't surprising at all that literary censors turn out to be men (and women) of letters, or that they may feel some sympathy to the censored. Who else is going to do the job, and who else gets access to all uncensored works?
At least one other Nobel laureate was a censor in his youth, before becoming himself the target of censorship.
posted by Skeptic at 12:32 PM on July 11, 2011

Loved Waiting for the Barbarians. In this story, minds are preempted from thinking, from speaking.
posted by amusem at 12:33 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

God damn it. It's "poring over," not "pouring over."

I would censor the hell out of this guy then go home and sleep like a baby.
posted by Naberius at 12:34 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Those captions were apparently written by somebody who doesn't understand English at all. Nevertheless, that was easily the most interesting thing I've seen all week. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Electrius at 12:52 PM on July 11, 2011

Yeah, prior to watching this I had a fairly uncomplicated moral opinion of censors, and now it's not quite so simple. I had never really given much thought to what kind of people ended up operating the levers of censorship, but of course it would be the pillars of the literary establishment, so to speak.
posted by Kattullus at 1:08 PM on July 11, 2011

Ahem. It's The University of Texas at Austin. Thank you.
posted by katemonster at 4:55 PM on July 11, 2011

A friend of mine used to work for the Classification Board, the organisation that runs Australia's truly insane censorship system. Although he wasn't exactly a censor, his job involved looking at the material to be classified and preparing it (writing a summary, identifying particular issues etc) for the Board to look at, which was a great job for him as porn is one of his life's great passions and he got to spend most of his time working on what he described as "skin mags for truckers and bikies".

By the way, the Law Reform Commission is running a review of the system and accepting submissions, so any locals who are offended by abject stupidity should take this opportunity to do something about it.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:12 PM on July 11, 2011

Thanks so much for the link. Coetzee applied for permanent residence in the U.S. in 1971 but was denied as a result of his participation in anti-Vietnam protests. I adore Coetzee, and I've wondered what it would have been like if he had been allowed to make America his home.
posted by Maxa at 8:03 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Sluggish growth is no mystery: No one has any...   |   The Menace Within Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments