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David Bellos

Writer and academic David Bellos explores why translating sex in literature is so difficult and wonders whether the difficulties themselves can cast light on the subject.

Five different writers consider the reasons why and the challenges of writing about sex. Today David Bellos, translator and Professor of Comparative Literature explores why translating sex is so difficult and wonders whether the difficulties themselves can cast light on the subject.

In little more than a few decades, perhaps a generation or two, western culture has arguably progressed from a largely repressed and circumspect attitude to portraying the sins and pleasures of the flesh to an altogether more casual and certainly visually more permissive approach. How have writers and readers, adjusted to these changes and what are authors trying to say when they write about sex? Is the written word trailing in the wake of film, tv and video or have these media liberated authors from a more timid, and possibly less authentic way of writing?

These essays offer a chance to step back and reflect on some of the subtler arguments that can get lost amidst a sea of pneumatic imagery. Somewhere between the conventions of shock, titillation and comedy lie a whole range of other ideas that can be explored when writing about sex.

First broadcast in March 2013.

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15 minutes

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