Wesker re-writes Grimm as erotica

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the original Angry Young Men of British theatre is about to astonish the literary establishment by publishing a collection of 12 highly explicit, erotic tales.

Arnold Wesker, who became a leading playwright in the Sixties and Seventies, with gritty successes such as Chips with Everything and The Wesker Trilogy, has penned a series of sexual fantasies featuring bestiality, voyeurism and bondage.

The stories, which had trouble finding a publisher, are sourced on the Brothers Grimm's classic fairytale, The King's Daughters. At the end of this month Quartet will launch Wesker's erotic collection under the same title.

In the Grimm version, the king's 12 daughters leave the palace at night seeking adventures. In Wesker's reworking, each daughter encounters an intense sexual awakening, frequently involving other women, gnomes, dogs or flagellation and, for one, all four. No encounter involves conventional romantic love.

Last night Wesker, whose early work gave birth to the term "kitchen- sink drama", strenuously defended himself against the label of pornographer and said he wrote the stories because he wanted to see if literary language could be used to arouse readers without recourse to crude terminology.

"I worked very hard to find other ways of describing the sex act," said Wesker, 66.

But the vocabulary of many of the stories is nothing if not blunt. Where Anglo-Saxon is avoided, he uses phrases, such as "Ease in your fiery lance".

Action sequences read, "Now the gypsy positioned herself most curiously. First she raised Dionis to her knees. Then she parted them..." or "She felt the crackle of paws among the last dead winter leaves, felt the hot breath between her thighs".

The author said: "I know people will say, what on earth is this serious writer doing writing erotica? But although it is a serious piece of work, the stories are slightly tongue-in-cheek. And there is also the appeal of surprising people."

The tales included in The King's Daughters were begun in 1980, after Margaret Drabble told Wesker he never seemed to write about sex. The playwright then wrote One More Ride on the Merry-Go-Round and Lady Othello. "I came across the Grimm's tale and decided to base each daughter on women I knew of, in so far as they were different physical types," he said. "Of course, I didn't know the sexual characteristics of most of them."

He submitted the stories to publishers anonymously. When they were repeatedly rejected, Wesker posed as the translator of a newly-found foreign text.

"Our writer seems to be exploring the possibility that passion excites the more when set against intellect," he wrote in a bogus translator's note.

Wesker believes the first story, which tells of the tender deflowering of the youngest daughter, should be taught in sex education classes at school.

"When you think how some women suffer with their first sexual experience at the hands of insensitive men, this could only be helpful," he said.

The work was published only after Wesker put his name to it. Piers Blofeld, editor at Quartet, said: "We felt that a man of his stature should be published." It was "hard to say" if the stories would have been published if they had been written by someone else.

"One would also hope there is a commercial appeal there," added Mr Blofeld.