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||Lord Horor (Czech edition)
210mm x 150mm
Czech Republic edition
Published by Volvox Globator
ISBN 80 85769 67 0
Volvox Globator editor Ladislav Senkyrik bravely bought Lord Horror after reading Brian Stableford's report on the trial in a Czech Republic newspaper. The first 'foreign' edition of Lord Horror. The first edition, other than Savoy's, anywhere.
Introduction by Brian Stableford, who was an expert witness for the defence at the trial.
Czech Republic readers may buy copies of this edition from the publishers, Volvox Globator.
Introduction: (to the Volvox Globator edition of David Britton's Lord Horror )
"As I write this introduction (on 3 May 1993) the author of Lord Horror is in jail, having been sentenced to four months imprisonment by a Manchester Crown Court for breaching the Obscene Publications Act. It was also a Manchester Crown Court which, on 31 July 1991, upheld an appeal by Savoy Books against the destruction of copies of Lord Horror which had been seized by the Manchester police. It is necessary to be careful in taking the inference that these two events are in any way connected, and in speculating as to what the form of that connection might be. The United Kingdom is, of course, a country which honours the liberty of free speech, but it is also a country with strict libel laws; the effect of this combination is that rich and powerful people can say and do whatever they wish, while less powerful people dare not complain publicly for fear of financial ruination. The fact that this introduction will appear in print means that I ought to make it perfectly clear that the fact that Lord Horror contains a passage parodying the ideas and attitudes of the one-time Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton, might easily be quite unconnected with the relentless manner in which the Manchester police have harried its author and attempted to suppress the book.
The appeal at which the destruction order against Lord Horror was overturned was an interesting experience for me. I had never been in a court of law before, but I had read parts of the transcript of a much earlier obscenity trial, which took place in 1953, after which six books by the pseudonymous Hank Janson were condemned as obscene and ordered to be destroyed. On that occasion the presiding magistrate had become very annoyed with the counsel for the defence, who wanted the members of the jury to read the books before pronouncing them obscene; the magistrate thought this an unnecessary waste of time. I could hardly believe that this had actually happened, but my knowledge of the incident (and my awareness of the extent to which men of the law respect precedent) helped me to be less astonished as I watched His Honour Judge Humphries, presiding at the Lord Horror appeal, begin the proceedings by inquiring of the counsel for the defence as to whether it was necessary that he and the two presiding magistrates should have read the book. Judge Humphries seemed rather annoyed when the defence counsel suggestedvery diplomaticallythat he ought not to reject the appeal without first reading the book. It would, of course, be dangerous for me publicly to entertain the hypothesis that the reason why the court overturned the destruction order on the book, while upholding it in respect of a comic book seized at the same time, had less to do with the eloquent arguments of the defence and its battery of expert witnesses than the confidence with which the three adjudicators could claim familiarity with the contents of what they so ardently desired to condemn. It is, however, a sad fact that, as a general rule, few would-be censors are capable of intelligently reading or viewing that which they wish to censor; they can count the swear-words or enumerate the acts of violence, but questions of meaning remain obstinately outside the scope of their enquiry.
It is undeniable, of course, that Lord Horror deals with unpleasant subject-matter: race-hatred; the glamour of Fascism; the psychology of repression and oppression. The author's method of dealing with these subjects is one whose roots are to be found in the sarcastic fantasies of the French and English Decadent Movements and in the theatricality of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. The novel's central charactersLord Horror and the Führer of whom he is in searchare grotesques, and their adventures constitute a phantasmagorical black comedy. Their actions, attitudes and aspirations are satirically exaggerated to the point of ludicrous caricature. The artistry of this method is, alas, bound to fall on stony ground when such a book is read (or briefly glanced at) by men who are so wilfully and stubbornly stupid that they flatly refuse to recognise irony. One would have thought that there was little room for crude literalism in contemplating David Britton's Hitlera quaintly pathetic figure quietly pursuing his research in the philosophy of Schopenhauer while his unheeded masculinity, symbolised by the incredibly expansive Old Shatterhand, entertains extremely inconvenient delusions of grandeurbut one should never underestimate the capacity which the censorious mind has for crudity of perception.
The character of Lord Horror derives, ultimately, from the notorious "traitor" William Joyce, who broadcast German propaganda to the British people on Joseph Goebbels' behalf throughout the years of World War II. Joyce's exaggeratdely aristocratic English accent encouraged his listeners to refer to him as "Lord Haw-Haw", a joke which quickly became a significant element of the folklore of the war. (The ability to turn an authentically sinister source of anxiety into irreverent comedy is, of course, an important method of psychological defencebut not, one must assume, a method which could make any sense to the kind of people who sit as magistrates in British crown courts.) Joyce had lived in England and Ireland for many years before the outbreak of World War II and had been active in Oswald Mosley's Fascist organization; he had, moreover, fraudulently obtained a British passport. The fact remains, however, that he was not British at allhe was an American citizenand his defection to Germany in 1939 was not, technically, an act of treason. Joyce was a repulsive man with repulsive ideas, who had done his level best to harm the people of the United Kingdom, but the eagerness of the British to hang himwhich they did on 3 January 1946undeniably represents a triumph of censorious zeal over more refined ideals of Justice. It would, of course, be impolite publicly to entertain the proposition that things have not changed much in the course of the last half-century.
David Britton's Lord Horror is a character who proudly wears the glamour of Fascism, and proudly retains the prejudices and aspirations of Nazism, but this should not be taken, even by the meanest intellect, to imply that he is held up by the author as a suitable role-model. The purpose of horror is to horrify; the characterization of Lord Horror is calculated to excite alarm and anxiety; the plot in which he figures endeavours to achieve revelation by means of shock tactics. Lord Horror sets out to be a horror story, an alarmist fantasy, and a provocatively shocking text; it succeeds. The narrative is sometimes very funny, and sometimes utterly repulsive, and seeks by means of such huge swings of mood to enhance its overall effect; it succeeds. The imagery of the story borrows on the one hand from comic-strip art and on the other from the philosophical Weltanshauung of Schopenhauer, attempting through such odd juxtapositions to heighten the reader's sense of the awful absurdity of the polite veneer which overlies the politics of genocide; it succeeds. Lord Horror is no literary confection; it is not a work of gentle escapism. It is, however, a book worth reading, and a book whose preservation is worth fighting for.
The censorious mind works from the assumption that unpleasant things are better hidden away. It presumes that what can be kept out of sight can be kept out of mind, and that this will work to the public good. This is a sad mistake. The kind of xenophobia which led, in Hitler's Germany, to the the attempted extirpation of those Jews and Slavs unlucky enough to find themselve within the borders of the expanding Reich, is by no means extinct. It is clearly visible in recently re-united Germany, in recently disunited Yugoslavia, and in the nation which William Joyce unwisely tried to adopt. Yesterday's British newspapers carried the story of twelve families of Somalian refugees, who had fled from famine and civil war to seek sanctuary in The Manor, a housing estate in Sheffield. For the next several months the women and children (most of the families having no male head) were continually stoned when they left their homes, and continually had their windows broken while they cowered within. Now they are refugees again, in search of a haven which really will be safe. If ordinary people are unable to find such incidents shocking and horrifying without assistance, then they need and ought to be given all the assistance possible. If books which rudely assault complacency are to be suppressed, where are we to find such assistance? Sometimes, in respect of certain issues, we need to be challenged, to be provoked, to be shocked, and to be horrified.
I do not know how David Britton is spending his time while he is in jail. I hope he is writing, and I hope one day to be able to read what he has written."
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