Top 5 | Banned Books

Today’s top 5 is in honour of freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of writing and reading. We have all witnessed the renewed interest for books like 1984 since the inauguration of the 45th president of the USA and I wanted to stress the importance of the fact that we are able to read everything we want and use that to express ourselves and to protest.

Every year, the American Libraries Association organises the Banned Book Week, celebrating the right to read. This year’s Banned Book Week will be from September 24th – September 30th. Do visit their website! The ALA’s Banned Book Week isn’t necessarily (or not anymore) about books who were banned by governments, but by libraries and schools. I think it is a great thing that this kind of repression of the freedom to read gets this kind of widespread attention.

I remember that at my secondary school the Dutch ‘cult classic’ Komt een vrouw bij de dokter van Kluun (translated as Love Life and published by Macmillan) had been banned for years. Students were not allowed to read it for their literature classes because the school thought it was morally objectionable. In the book a man cheats on his wife, who is terminally ill with cancer, and this was a bridge too far for my school. Whatever you may think about the man’s morals, I think it is important to let students read what they want – as long as it is within the guidelines of the literature classes – and make up their own mind. Kluun’s book has been a staple on almost every student’s reading list since the ban was lifted because the book had once been banned. The ban has resulted in the exact opposite of the school’s (former) intention.

But let’s talk about the classics. I’ve chosen 5 books that I’ve read that have been banned in the past. Some date from before my account on Goodreads so they aren’t rated. Click on the rating to go to the Goodreads page and on the title to go to my review. All information is from banned-books.org.uk, the Wikipedia list or the ALA website.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
[no rating available]

Banned by: The province of Hunan, China, 1931.
Verdict: The portrayal of animals acting on the same level as humans. The censor General Ho Chien believed that attributing human language to animals was an insult to humans. He feared that the book would teach children to regard humans and animals on the same level, which would be ‘disastrous’.

Story: Lose yourself in Alice’s story as she tumbles down the rabbit hole, swims through her own pool of tears, and finds herself in a rather curious place called Wonderland. There, she’ll encounter the frantic White Rabbit, have a frustrating conversation with an eccentric caterpillar, and play croquette with the hot-headed Queen of Hearts.

Buy the book here!

Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)

Refrained from publishing by: Allied forces during WWII.
Banned by: USSR upon publication, United Arabic Emirates in 2002, North Korea.
Censored in: Vietnam.
Verdict: Critical of the USSR and the texts and images that go against Islamic values.

Story: Mr. Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges

Buy the book here!

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Banned by: Ireland and Australia upon publication.
Verdict: sexual promiscuity.

Story: Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress.

Buy the book here!

1984 by George Orwell (1949)

Banned by: The Soviet Union in 1950 (lifted in 1990).
Nearly banned by: USA and UK in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Verdict: Critical of Stalin’s leadership.

Story: Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 …

Buy the book here!

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)
[no rating available]

Banned by: Lebanon in 2004.
Verdict: Offensive to Christianity.

Story: While in Paris, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is awakened by a phone call in the dead of the night. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum, his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon and gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu sort through the bizarre riddles, they are stunned to discover a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci—clues visible for all to see and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Even more startling, the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion—a secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci—and he guarded a breath taking historical secret. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle—while avoiding the faceless adversary who shadows their every move—the explosive, ancient truth will be lost forever.

Buy the book here!

What banned books have you read?

Amber Linde

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