The Beloved

Michael Ignatieff

  • Giving Offence: Essays on Censorship by J.M. Coetzee
    Chicago, 289 pp, $27.50, March 1996, ISBN 0 226 11174 1

When Andrei Sinyavsky looked up tsenzura in a Soviet dictionary of foreign words imported into Russian, it wasn’t there. ‘The word censorship was itself censored.’ Censorship is ashamed of itself. It is also ridiculous: a censor, J.M. Coetzee writes, is like a man trying to stop his penis from standing up. To censor is to give proof that one is in the grip of that which one wishes to forbid others desiring. Not even feminist critics of pornography like the philosopher Catharine MacKinnon actually want to censor pornography. ‘Censoring pornography would not delegitimise it; I want to delegitimise it.’ Besides, ‘censorship excites men a lot.’

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