By all accounts the General Post Office and the Customs people (or more likely both) at the time frequently withheld books posted to him on censorship grounds - when Burgess needed to read the same books to earn a living from reviewing them.
“Certain books were not allowed in,” Burgess wrote. “At Luqa airport a team scrutinised the British newspapers and cut out or inked over underwear advertisements or bathing beauties which might inflame Maltese youth. One could sometimes buy a Daily Mirror that collapsed into scissored tatters.”
Censorship (then as now) was arbitrary, embarrassingly narrow minded and non consistent. This is hardly surprising seeing as the police in supposedly twenty-first century Malta can still request to vet potentially offensive lyrics for the Nadur Carnival, and dressing up as a nun or priest at the same event can still land one in court. Then there was the infamous incident where the same police requested that naked mannequins in a Mosta shop be dressed up…
There is no memorial plaque on any house in Lija recording his stay - and I am saddened by the fact that the Lija Local Council hasn't thought of it either. Surely any present owner of the house would not object to a simple informative plaque - with one eye on the property’s potential resale value....
So basically the author who gave us a whole new language replete with devotchkas, litsos and ptitsas in A Clockwork Orange is all but forgotten by his adoptive Maltese village. A real shame.
The house where Burgess lived is apparently No. 168, Main Street, Lija (the house on the left in the photo above), described by the author as “a rather fine house built in 1798, the year of Napoleon’s invasion. It was floored in marble, had an impressive piano nobile, three bathrooms and four toilets, and a garden with its own artesian well and many lemon and orange trees. It had a bad reputation, so we heard in a local bar, because its former owner had hurled himself from the roof in a fit of depression”
I am grateful to Australian author Matthew Asprey for supplying important information (not least identifying Burgess’s house) for this revised blog entry. Matthew has a very interesting article about following Burgess’s footsteps in Malta and Rome here
(This blog post was revised on 24/12/2011)