Often, books fall prey to the convoluted viewpoints of the power that be who because of their convoluted sense of authority and power believe they should control what the public reads. Unfortunately, this completely undermines any sense of autonomy on the part of the reader and also the freedom of speech and expression. Banning books is just another instrument to uphold the status quo and bar any alternative and marginal viewpoints to emerge on the mainstream level.
Let’s take a look at just a tiny fraction of the books that were banned in the past and in recent times for myriad reasons:
1) Alice in Wonderland
It was banned in Hunan Province in China in 1931. The reason: The governor thought that it was unnatural for animals to speak.
2) Burger’s Daughter
Recently passed away Nobel Laureate, Nadine Gordimer was known for her stories challenging the apartheid in South Africa. For precisely that reason, this novel was banned in 1979.
3) Da Vinci Code
No one was ready to take Dan Brown’s thriller as it was: a work of fiction! Everyone took it seriously for its portrayal of Christianity and Jesus. It was banned in Lebanon in 2004. It was even banned in Nagaland in 2006!
4) Animal Farm
The book by George Orwell was banned in USSR till the 1980s’ and also in the US for communist material.
5) Origin of Species
Charles Darwin’s book was banned in his own college, Trinity for challenging the emergence of life and therefore God. It was banned in 1935 in Yugoslavia as well.
6) Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Banned on its publication in 1852 in the American South. The reason: anti-slavery propaganda.
7) Fahrenheit 451
The author, Ray Bradbury, would never have thought that his dystopian novel about censorship in the future would itself be censored! It was banned in the 1990s’ for its questionable themes!
8) Black Beauty
Anna Sewell wrote this novel with a single purpose of showing to the world the ill treatment of horses. But the Apartheid South African government thought otherwise and promptly banned the book for having the word, ‘black’ in its title.
9) Satanic Verses
No “banned book list” is complete without the mention of this book by Salman Rushdie. It was banned in several countries for being blasphemous and hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims. In his autobiography Salman Rushdie writes that the ban on his book in India came, improbably, from the finance ministry, under section 11 of the Customs Act, which prevented the book from being imported and weirdly enough the finance ministry stated that the ban ‘did not detract from the literary and artistic merit’ of this work.
It is a collection of love poems by the Roman author, Ovid. It seems that banning books is not a new phenomenon. This collection was banned by Emperor Augustus about 2000 years ago!!!
11) The Prince
Hailed by many as an excellent political treatise, the Catholic Church however simply dismissed this book by Machiavelli as an evil work and banned it after 1532.
12) The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny
Who could ban these adorably cute rabbits? What crime could they possible commit? Well, the London County Council banned it from all schools in the 1980’s because they portrayed only middle class rabbits!
13) Letters from Burma
Talking about daily life in Burma, this collection of short stories by Aung San Suu Kyi, is banned in her own country.
14) Fight Club
Many may not have read the novel, satisfying ourselves with the movie version and who would really want to read the book after watching Brad Pitt, eh? If you are in China, then you probably have to just watch only the film anyhow because it was banned there in 1999 as the government didn’t approve of the many ways given in the books to make bombs and explosive devices.
This list is sadly a lot bigger and ever growing with people and authorities perpetually raising objections to content of novels, poems, plays and other literary works. Most books are banned or challenged or temporarily removed due to obscenity and vulgarity. But banning it will not solve the problem or remove it from society. Moreover, what is explicit is a subjective opinion and people should be allowed to decide. .
By: Akansha Singh
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