This question has been debated for hundreds of years. Many people feel, and have felt, that a book should promote proper morals. A book with violence might encourage people to be violent. A book with homosexuality might thwart people from their previous Christian ways (I don’t agree with this, by the way). The list of reasons for banning books is endless.
So many books have been famously banned by different Governments over time. Here I list some of the most shocking ones and where and why they were banned.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: I know. It’s ridiculous of course, that such a wonderful and iconic book, written by Lewis Carroll could possibly be banned. But it was. It was banned in the province of Hunan, China, in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings. It was believed to be offensive towards human beings… bla bla bla… Basically, some people didn’t understand the concept of fantasy!
- Borstal Boy, by Brendan Behan: This is an interesting one, although I’ve never read it. It tells the tale of an Irish man in a juvenile prison. Shockingly, it was banned in Ireland because of its criticism of Irish Republicanism and Catholicism, and of course, its themes of adolescent sexuality. To me, these reasons are questionable.
- The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown: Oh dear, what can I even say about one? I think everyone knows something about this book. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, and has been adapted into a film. However it was banned in Lebanon because Catholic leaders felt that it was offensive towards Catholicism. Again, this is clearly quite a poor reason.
- Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler: This one is at least understandable on some level. It’s essentially banned in Germany and Austria to print the work. But I question this too. Although his book contains horrible and extremely racist views, it is also a very important historical source.
- Ulysses by James Joyce: What is now regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century was banned in the UK until the 1930’s, and in Australia during the 1930s and 1940s. It was challenged and temporarily banned in the US too. Shocking stuff, I know.
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe: Shockingly, this book was banned in the Southern United States during the Civil War due to its anti-slavery content.
It seems that the banning of books has been quite extensive, and even to this day, many are challenged, and thus removed from some bookshops, on religious and sexual grounds. Harry Potter is a prime example of a book series that is constantly questioned, on the grounds that it supposedly promotes Witchcraft. But is this right? Well, I think that it’s safe to say that no, it is not right. I particularly noticed the extent of banned works in Ireland. Quite a lot, by the looks of things! Sex by Madonna was banned in 1992 here, which I find strange and questionable. I’m glad that in Western Europe we’ve become liberated enough to stop banning books.