Bust of Koestler still on view at Edinburgh University
A BRONZE bust of the alleged serial rapist Arthur Koestler is still on show at Edinburgh University – nearly 20 years after it was removed from public view.
The sculpture of the feted novelist, who was exposed for brutal attacks on women after his death, was withdrawn from the public concourse of the psychology building after complaints from female students, but it was discreetly placed in the University’s psychology library.
Labour MSP Iain Gray said: “Edinburgh University should seriously consider whether it is appropriate for this bust to still be in public sight.”
Koestler’s reputation as a novelist and journalist was soured in 1998 after a biography of him claimed he had raped and beaten a number of women, including the wife of former Labour leader Michael Foot.
Edinburgh University, which benefits from a higher education post that the late writer funded with a bequest, got caught up in the controversy.
After Koestler died in 1983 a trust fund was used to establish a chair of “parapsychology” – the study of paranormal subjects such as clairvoyance, telepathy and telekinesis – at a British university, cash that was secured by Edinburgh.
When news of the rape allegations broke, reports emerged of female students complaining about feeling “uneasy” about a bust of Koestler in the public concourse.
Some women’s groups had reportedly threatened to deface the bust and a spokesman for the said in late 1998 it had been removed for security reasons.
At the time Scottish Women’s Aid was quoted as saying: “This is a man known to be serially abusive and violent towards women but the message was being put out that it was okay to glorify him.”
However, the bust never left the university. A university source told the Sunday Herald it had been moved to the psychology library, which is accessible to anyone with a pass.
The university website describes the novelist as a “prolific author” who “continues to attract controversy and interest from numerous different angles”. His alleged rape is not mentioned on the web page.
Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone said: “While Koestler avoided prosecution for his alleged crimes, that does not absolve the university from taking appropriate action. The bust should be removed and never put on display again.”
Asked why the bust was still on display in a location where staff and students can see it, a university spokesperson said: “We are not aware of any concerns having been raised about the current location of the bust. However, it is due to be removed from the psychology library.”
Pressed on why the bust was being removed, he said: “Sorry, we can’t offer anything further at this stage.”
Asked why it had not dropped the Koestler name from the chair post the spokesperson added: “We would always respond to any concerns that might be raised in relation to the titles of chairs.”