10 Scandalous Authors From History

The Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: Updated: 22/05/2012 08:57

Books have always raised hackles.

When a young and relatively unknown William S. Burroughs locked horns with Scottish writers in a major debate at the Edinburgh Writers Conference in 1962, who would have thought we would be celebrating the scandal 50 years on, as part of the London 2012 Festival?

In this spirit of scandalous celebration, here are 10 authors from history who knew how to court controversy with style...

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  • Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907)

    Joris-Karl Huysmans' <em>À rebours (Against Nature)</em>, is a landmark in early gay literature. Its gorging decadence and its protagonist's liaison with a beautiful youth appalled contemporary critics, but found fans among the new generation of artistic aesthetes - among them Oscar Wilde. In 1895 <em>À rebours</em> was used as an exhibit at Wilde's trial on 'sodomy' charges. PHOTO: Wikimedia

  • D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

    When he died, Laurence was regarded as a writer of pornography who had gained many enemies throughout his life and spent much of it in voluntary exile. Even after death he wasn't immune from scandal, with the 1960 <em>Lady Chatterley</em> trial becoming one of the most famous literary controversies of all time when the book's publishers Penguin were tried under the Obscene Publications Act.

  • Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie (born 1947)

    At the centre of what was perhaps the most famous literary scandal in modern history, Rushdie's <em>The Satanic Verses</em> provoked protests from Muslims in several countries, some violent. Death threats were made against him, including a fatwā issued by Iran's Ayatollah in 1989.

  • Aphra Behn (1640-1689)

    After working as a political spy and ending up in prison for not straightening her debts, this fair-faced rebel finally settled down enough to start a literary career. Along with two fellow women writers Aphra Behn scandalised the male critics by writing about women's sexual desires - they were called the "naughty triumvirate". Speaking of women of pleasure...

  • John Cleland (1709-1789)

    When Cleland's erotic novel, <em>Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure</em>, was first published in the mid-eighteenth century, he, his publisher and printer were promptly arrested. In court, Cleland disavowed the novel, and the book was officially withdrawn, not to be legally published again for over a century. PHOTO: Wikimedia

  • Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

    When his overtly sexual poetry collection <em>Leaves of Grass</em> was first published in 1855, Whitman was immediately fired from his job at the US Department of the Interior. The book was considered profane and immoral in its exaltation of pleasure, but the bad press didn't stop Whitman spending the rest of his life writing and rewriting this American epic.

  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

    Most controversial writers learn not to let the critics get to them, but Russian author Solzhenitsyn didn't have much choice. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 for his criticism of the regime and harrowing descriptions of life in a gulag, one of many dissidents to be forced to leave their country, but the only one to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

  • Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

    Being stabbed in a dodgy Deptford backstreet wasn't (believe it or not) the peak of this devilish playwright's scandalous career whose play, <em>Doctor Faustus</em>, was said to drive people insane. After his death his translation of Ovid was banned and copies publicly burned as part of a crackdown on offensive material.

  • William Borroughs (1914-1997)

    Burroughs' semi-autobiographical book about heroin addiction, <em>Naked Lunch</em>, proved extremely controversial both for its content and its obscene language when it was first published in 1959. It was banned in Boston and Los Angeles and was one of the most recent American books over which an obscenity trial was held - though that's perhaps not saying much when we consider our next contender in the controversy charts...

  • Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

    When this duo published <em>And Tango Makes Three</em> in 2005 they couldn't have guessed the stir it would cause, or could they? The children's book about two penguin parents in a same sex relationship caused uproar amongst some adults in the United States, for its depiction of homosexuality in animals. It became America's most challenged book for three years running.