If you look at literary history, you would know that words, themes, plots and often entire books have been banned after they are deemed socially offensive. ‘Erotica’ is a genre that is still frowned upon, though now most societies have become more accepting of it.
One striking historical text that stirred sufficient controversy in its time was ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover‘ written by D H Lawrence in 1928. Back then, many people were not ready for it, but over the years, it came to be adapted on screen, like the 2015 BBC TV movie, and now in 2022, a Netflix film starring Emma Corrin as Lady Constance Chatterley and Jack O’Connell as Oliver Mellors. Find out more about the story, why it was banned, what the controversy was all about and other such facts.
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover‘ was the last novel written by English author D H Lawrence — first published privately in 1928 in Italy, and then in 1929 in France. In the UK, its uncensored edition could not be published openly until 1960, owing to it being labelled ‘obscene’, perhaps because it was way ahead of its time.
There was even a trial against publishing house Penguin Books, which went on to win the case and then sell millions of copies of the book. But not just in Europe, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover‘ was considered contentious in countries like the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and also India, which banned it for obscenity.
Consider the fact that the book was released decades ago when societal values were different. The lead characters, Chatterley and Mellors, were both married to other people. While Chatterley’s husband Sir Clifford Chatterley is paralysed from the waist down because of a war injury, she develops an interest in Mellors, who is a gamekeeper.
But the plot was not as linear as it seems. Said to be one of Lawrence’s best works, the book deals with marital disconnect and underlying emotions, too, as opposed to looking at extra-marital affairs from the prism of right and wrong.
The book was banned for it contained many sexual connotations and depictions and even references to sodomy, along with class conflict. It should be noted that the society, back then, was largely conservative.
The latest film adaptation of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover‘ has been directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, who told Vogue in an interview, “When I re-read the novel, I thought it could have been written today. It’s scary that not that much has changed since the ’20s. As women, we’re still fighting for equality. The idea of a woman being free is still scandalous.
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“You only have to look at what happened with Roe v Wade, and what’s happening now in Iran. This book is about a woman’s journey to empowerment, to controlling her body, owning her sexuality and owning her life. My goal was to emphasise her point of view, and to give the audience a visceral experience of a woman experiencing pleasure. It needed to feel accessible.”