Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Chatterley Affair

The Chatterley Affair
A victory over hyprocrisy

"Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?" In 1960, prosecutor Mervyn Griffith-Jones tried to persuade an Old Bailey jury to ban DH Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. The victory for Penguin Books was a turning point in recent history and represented a massive defeat for the ruling class.

Censorship has been used by privileged elites throughout history. For instance, the works of Milan Kundera were banned by the Stalinist regime in Czechoslovakia. They said the works were offensive to Czech women. Anyone who reads them finds them much more offensive to the Stalinist regime itself!

The Chatterley Affair on Channel 4 mixed fact and fiction to bring this story to life. Two members of the jury fall in love under the influence of the novel. The progress of their affair is shown interspersed with extracts from the case based on the court record.

The novel uses language which even today has shock value and would be out of place in The Socialist. However, Lawrence recontextualises the language and transforms the four letter words from obscenities into the language of love.

It is not the best novel in the English language. The first chapter for example is one long “miaou” about women’s rights. Nevertheless the stand which the jury made against hypocrisy threatened the very right of the ruling class to decide what we can read.

Andrew Davies’ play which was shown twice on BBC4 is well worth the time taken to view it. And let your wife or your servants watch too!



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