Banned Books Becoming Beloved!

Last week I was reading different bookblogs and I noticed many of them mentioned Banned Books Week.  I thought this was odd; I’ve never heard much about it and assumed it was something that only occasionally happened.  But then I ended up on the Banned Book Page of The American Library Association and I couldn’t believe my eyes….  So many books that were challenged or that had been effectually banned, for a variety of reasons: racism,violence, (homo)sexuallity, drugs, offensive language, … or for simply absurd reasons, e.g. the fact that a book was considered anti-family or promoting magic (think of the Harry Potter Books).  But are books not supposed to be a window on the world and on the life of man?  And isn’t it up to the individual to decide what he wants to read?

How come I never heard about this?  Do they ban books in Belgium and other (European) countries too or was it only an American thing?  I wanted to find out more about this and I immediatley made the resolution to read more books from the lists .  From being banned for me they at once became beloved, although I hadn’t even read most of them.

When I typed in Google ‘boekcensuur’ I only got a few relevant articles about censorship; there was one about a politician who complained that his books were not published because he did belong to the ‘wrong’ side of politics.  Another one warned that the danger of banning was much higher with digital books.

Then I tried the same search in English, and this lead to a Wikipedia Page on ‘Banned Books by Government’ that gives some information about which books were banned in what year and what country.  It even turned out Amazon has a Banned Book Series.  So it did seem that book banning occurs in different countires (often religion-related), but only the United States keep lists and give information.  But then I stumbled upon an article in the Guardian that made it clear that in the Western countries the banning of books wasn’t that common and that it really was an American issue.

Banned or Challenged Books I have read:

USA

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  2. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck 
  3. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  4. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  5. Earth’s Children (series), by Jean M. Auel
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  8. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  9. American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
  10. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  11. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  12. The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende
  13. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  14. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  15. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
  16. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  17. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  18. Gone with the wind, Margareth Mitchell
  19. The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
  20. East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Other Countries

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (China)
  2. Animal Farm, George Orwell (USSR, Kenya, United Arab Emirated)
  3. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (Lebanon)
  4. The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank  (Lebanon)
  5. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak (USSR)
  6. The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, (India)
  7. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence (USA, UK)
  8. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (France, UK, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina)
  9. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (France)
  10. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka (Nazi-Germany)
  11. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (Soviet Union)
  12. Not without my daughter, Betty Mahmoody (Iran)
  13. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie (Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Kenya, Kuwait, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Senegal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Thailand)
  14. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (Southern United States, Russia)
  15. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  16. The 120 Days of Sodom, Marquis the Sade (frequently banned)

2 Comments

  1. I totally oppose the idea of book bans. So I’m reading Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, which was banned at some point but I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe something to do with communism (which is mentioned in the book but not positively).

    I don’t know of any banned books in The Netherlands, although I could imagine Hitler’s book Mein Kampf being banned.

    After writing this I checked it and although it is not banned, the Dutch State apparently has the rights to the book and they are not going to reprint it any time soon!

    Otherwise, I think there are no banned books here.

    • Thanks for your comment.
      I must say it rather shocked me to know there were that much banned books in the USA; the bans on books in other countries were all in the past, e.g. under Stalin in Russia or under the Nazis in Germany. More recently banned books seem to have to do with religion. I am indeed happy to know that books are not banned here; although I do know there were some people who commented on the Harry Potter series because they thought they were anti-christian. But there certainly (luckily) never was the idea of banning the books.

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