Posts Tagged ‘Trainspotting’
The University of Malta has taken the decision to remove the novel from its library shelves as the Mediterranean island’s censorship laws state that “obscene or pornographic” should not be available to the public. These statutes also declare that the country’s classification board must give their approval to any and all literature before it is made available to the citizens.
Porno follows the antics of Trainspotting characters Renton, Spud, Sickboy and Begbie ten years after their first drug-fuelled outing only this time the backdrop has shifted from heroin use to the sleaze of the pornography industry. However, this has proved far too racy for the Maltese authorities.
Ingram Bondin of the island’s Front Against Censorship defended the novel last week during a debate in which she branded the situation “a classic case of censorship”.
On the back of this discussion the Front has put forward several proposals to update the country’s censorship laws. For example, they would like to abolish the prison sentence that faces an individual who vilifies the Roman Catholic Church. They would also like the practice of checking material for obscene and pornographic contents by a centrally appointed Classification Board to be stopped.
The 21-year-old editor of the student newspaper Realtà was recently threatened with jail time for publishing a short story deemed inappropriate by the authorities. Mark Camilleri, leader of the Front Against Censorship, said: “Censorship has increased and is being used to suppress arts. But the government is not budging.”
No stranger to controversy Welsh’s themes and scenes of rape, dog killing and drug use have attracted criticism and bans in the past. His play, You’ll Have Had Your Hole, allegedly faced a Belgian ban and the great censors, the Chinese, have refused to allow several of his titles to be sold in the country.
Watch an interview with Irvine Welsh post-Trainspotting:
Is Malta right to censor Irvine Welsh’s work? Is there any place for censorship in this modern age? What are your feelings on the subject
Words: Dean Samways
He is one of the most celebrated and infamous writers of our time. He epitomises everything that is very right and very wrong with the literary world. Whatever he may be, and represent, Irvine Welsh is one of the most successful British writers in decades. With a wealth of novels, short stories, screenplays and even pieces of journalism to his name the Scot is the manifestation of everything that The Scribbler is about.
From his near arrogant burst onto the writing scene with Trainspotting right up until this point; when millions of readers are sat waiting to click ‘order’ at online bookstores to purchase his latest offering, Crime, Welsh’s ever expanding fanbase could be put down to a number of things. Firstly, inarguably, there’s the cult following, nay, extreme popularity of his first novel’s film adaptation but there’s much more to him than a motion picture.
The land of the brave has produced a social commentator who not only connects to the thinking of critics but also rallies the backing of the masses. Thatcherism may have a lot to answer for but the creation of this cultural icon under the Iron Lady is something we should cherish. Although Welsh is not just a product of his environment, his products reflect current fears and moral panics running through the anxious veins of every Labour voting parent.
“It’s about a distressed Scottish policeman who is on holiday with his fiancée, who works for Scottish Power,” bellows Irvine, proud of his new literary offering. “They’ve gone to Miami Beach to catch some winter sun and plan their wedding. His head is very messed up by the case of child killer he put behind bars in Edinburgh and he sees paedophiles everywhere. He freaks out, argues with his fiancée, meets this young girl who he believes is in danger and takes off with her in a rented Volkswagen, heading for the Gulf of Mexico.” This is classic Welsh, themes and ideas that breathe oxygen into British literature. His willingness to approach, dabble and frequently play devil’s advocate with often outlawed themes makes for compulsive reading, but isn’t paedophilia a step too far?
“It’s too horrible an issue not to write about. I think being a novelist is about tackling things that challenge you. Too much of literary fiction these days is just about somebody writing in the voice of novelists past; it’s a stagnant pond and it’s so up itself. I like books that try to get to grips with the more problematic aspects of human life.”
This is why Welsh has stumbled across such great success. Like Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton-Ellis, he harnesses near primeval characteristics of the human psyche and exposes them for all to see. Many find these subjects disturbing but coming through the other side of these novels the soul feels surprisingly cleansed, as if the difficult images have taught you something and made you stronger. Welsh uses alarming imagery to bring out the positive side human nature. Yes a police officer maybe affected in very dark ways through investigating cases of child abuse, but this has only made him more considerate and protective of the young and innocent. Does Welsh ever have second thoughts about what he’s about to put to paper? “Always. That’s what writing is about for me; confronting both the taboos and your own reservations and trying to get past them.”
Beyond the page
Clearly the Edinburgh born former electrician believes writing is much more than just ink on paper. It’s not an exaggeration that fiction can be a window to the soul, much more than a face or eyes, so maybe it’s only right that Welsh exposes human imperfections. But shock alone isn’t enough. Of others from the same school; William S Burroughs, Charles Bukowski and Will Self, Welsh has strong beliefs about what makes them thrilling reads: “I think they point out things that are instantly recognisable to us but shock us with that recognition. That’s when we know we’ve met the writer as an artist rather than an entertainer.” The difference between the flowery writers whose books line your Gran’s bookcases and those grittier paperbacks that are jammed between copies of The Word and Dazed and Confused in your magazine rack is blatant. The art of writing the novel can be abused by those lazy enough to appeal to our base emotions of love, lust, hate and the like but it’s the clever ones that attempt to tackle issues that draw moisture from our palms yet intrigue, school and lift us.
“I love writing the novel because you are creating the artefact. There is nobody else to blame if it goes wrong.” Works of fiction aren’t Welsh’s only vessels of telling his twisted tales fantastic fables. “With screenplays, you can blame the commissioning editors or the director or whoever, if the final product – the film – doesn’t work out.”
Having finished Crime he’s now adapting fellow Scot Alan Warner’s The Man Who Walks with his screenwriting partner Dean Cavanagh. Unlike Welsh perhaps, Warner has a taste for the extraordinary. His fourth novel follows the journey of an anonymous undesirable with hidden qualities. Drunk on whisky and half full on pony nuts he’s pursued for committing a crime towards a landscape created in the author’s first book. Parallels between Welsh and Warner can be drawn here. The mini-universes created through their work; Welsh’s Porno was a near sequel to Trainspotting.
“It’s very hard as I want to do justice to Alan’s book. I love it and that was why we wanted to adapt it in the first place. But we also need to realise it cinematically, and that often means taking liberties with the text. John Hodge told me when he adapted Trainspotting that he loved the book and found it hard to let go of some his favourite parts. I feel the same way. I have to keep remembering that Alan wrote it as a book not for the screen. Thankfully, he’s a very good friend and has been greatly supportive of the project.
“Novel writing is lonely and I’m a social animal by nature. You get a chance to collaborate with others when you work on a screenplay. Film-making is a collaborative art and that’s why I love it. I couldn’t NOT write books, but I couldn’t JUST write them.” But behind all this writing there lies the business push to get the work into the public consciousness. “Promotion is part of the writers work that is both very grim and absolutely essential. Writers love to create but hate to sell, although it’s such an important part of the job. I’ve a new and very dynamic publisher in France, which is publishing Porno and Bedroom Secrets at the same time, so I had to talk about both those books. It’s strange to discuss work, which is very old to you, and you must try to be graceful when you hear the same questions asked over and over, all week.
The business of promotion
“Basically I spent five days in a Paris hotel bar talking to a different print journalist every hour, broken up by the odd visit to a TV or Radio studio. To be fair, there was the big, long lunches that the French love, but when in Paris you really want to hit the museums, bars, cafes and shops. However, it’s hard being so constrained when you’re in such a vibrant metropolis.” It’s difficult to see then how a novel can take shape if a writer is forever promoting past work, penning another and then starting the cycle over. When is there time for new ideas to fester, be born and grow from the embryonic stages? Perhaps these ideas are always with writers, stewing and developing as they go about their own lives. Except what is special about Welsh is that his extraordinary ideas seem to come from ordinary behaviours around penning the novel. “I tend to rise early, work a hard morning, then take most afternoons off, alternating between going to the gym or for a swim and relaxing in the cinema. At night I just hang out or do a lot of reading. I love to read; a good book is the best way to relax. I travel a great deal; the beauty of writing is that you can do it anywhere with a laptop. In the last three months of 2007 I was in Bogotá, Cartagena, Chicago, Miami, Dublin, Paris and Edinburgh and I’ve mixed work and relaxation.”
With the picture painted of a writer’s life being busy and relaxing all at the same time, as schizophrenic as this writer’s literature itself is, horrific and enlightening, what’s the best piece of advice Welsh can give budding writers? “Finish the piece of work. Don’t just send in the odd chapter. Finish it! And, most of all, stick it away for six months before you send it off to a publisher or agent. I wrote one novel I thought was great then my publisher told me that it was a pile of shite. When I looked at it six months later, it wasn’t even as good as that. But you tend to get blinded; the emotional investment you make in your writing is crazy and can kill the critic in you. Write as an artist, with freedom and unselfconscious inhibition, then stick it away for a bit, then go back to it as a cynical, anal, repressed critic.”
Crime is out now through Vintage
If you can spare three quarters of an hour to watch the below video, your patience will be rewarded as before your eyes Welsh goes into even more detail about his new book during an interview for Google Books:
Words: Dean Samways