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Carnal fiction: the most salacious and sordid literary sex scenes

“My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach...”

Ask any author what the most difficult part of a novel is, and the answer will likely be not the closing line or plot, but penning a convincing sex scene. From Madame Bovary to modern day Mills & Boon classics, novelists have for centuries attempted to capture the essence of lust, passion, uncertainty and sheer adrenaline that sex conjures up – with varying levels of success.

With the news that Italian author, poet and translator Erri De Luca has won the 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction award for a passage in his novel The Day Before Happiness (which begins with the weirdly wooden quote above), let’s take a look at some of the best, worst and most surreal excerpts from literary sex scenes.

We’ll kick off with De Luca and the other four shortlisted contenders for this year's Literary Review prize, but be warned: their books are far from the strangest erotica that writers have offered up over the ages. 

Prepare yourself for some obscure metaphors, explicit language and all-round hanky panky – with a fair smattering of howling, thrusting and Tony Blair along the way...

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