Good literature gives us an escape from our daily lives, expands our worldview, and/ or imparts knowledge.
But over the years, many books have been considered so dangerous that they have been banned for public by governments across the world.
Here we list down some of them and the reasons for it.
1. ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell
George Orwell’s 1945 satirical allegorical novella is about a group of animals living on a farm, and how they overthrow their owner for being repressed. This, in turn, leads to a series of power-play among the animals. The book was written as a satire against communism and naturally, it was banned in the Soviet Union when it was released. However, ‘Animal Farm’ is still banned in Cuba and North Korea. And since the book shows pigs to talk, it was also banned in the UAE since it is against Muslim’s beliefs!
2. ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell
After writing ‘Animal Farm’ which was banned by the then Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, George Orwell also wrote his dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. It’s not surprising that ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ was also banned by Stalin, as the latter considered it as a comment on the style of ruling. The book was banned until 1990 in the Soviet Union. As per reports, many social groups in the USA also tried to get it removed from being sold at stores!
3. ‘The Satanic Verses’ by Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ was published in 1988. ‘It is centered on the novel’s references to the Satanic Verses of the Quran, and came to include a larger debate about censorship and religious violence,’ as per Wikipedia. Following the book’s controversies, it was banned in many countries, including India, Bangladesh, Thailand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, among others. In 1988, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was the Supreme Leader of Iran back then, had issued a fatwa against the author’s life. This led to numerous attempted-killings, including the author’s, which made Rushdie to go in hiding and stay under the British police’s protection for several years. Since then, while the angst against ‘The Satanic Verses’ controversy has simmered down and Khomeini has died, but his fatwa against Rushdie still remains. In August 2022, Rushdie was stabbed on stage at an event in the USA. And while Rushdie has survived and battled the attack, it has had life-changing effects on the author.
4. ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll’s classic ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ was published in 1865 and it is considered a classic. However, in 1990 the book was banned from the curriculum by an American school as it considered the story to have expletives and sexual fantasies. More recently, the book was banned in a Chinese province. The reason: the book depicts talking animals and the governor of a province in China is worried about depicting animals as equals to human beings in the story and its consequences on the people. However, Carroll’s work has been much loved by kids across the world and it has been adapted for stage and screen over the years.
5. ‘Mein Kampf’ by Adolf Hitler
German dictator Adolf Hitler’s autobiography ‘Mein Kampf’ (German, ‘My Struggle’) was published in 1925. It was Hitler’s rigid antisemitism views which lead to millions of innocent Jews being killed in the Holocaust. In his autobiography, Hitler writes about his radical views, what lead to them, and his vision for Germany.
“After World War II various efforts were undertaken to limit access to the work. Postwar German law banned the sale and public display of books espousing Nazi philosophy. Moreover, the copyright for ‘Mein Kampf’ had been awarded to the German state of Bavaria, which refused to grant publishing rights. However, foreign publishers continued to print the work, an act that brought condemnation both in Germany and in the countries where the book was published, not least because of its popularity with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups… On January 1, 2016, the copyright for ‘Mein Kampf’ expired, and the book entered public domain. Shortly thereafter Munich’s Institute for Contemporary History published a heavily annotated edition,” reads a report on Britannica.
6. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by EL James
British author Erika Leonard, who uses her pen name E.L. James, is widely known for her erotic novels Fifty Shades’. The books became huge hits across the world, not so much for the plot as much for its steamy scenes. So much so that they are also adapted into movies. However, the books were also banned in three American states and Malaysia for exactly the same reason– the pornographic content in the books.
7. ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce
James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ was released in 1920, but the novel was banned for being obscene even before it was published as a complete novel! “Committees in the United States such as the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice successfully worked toward the banning of ‘Ulysses’ after an excerpt in which the main character pleasured himself was published. It was thus considered contraband in America for over a decade until the landmark obscenity court case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses in 1933 lifted the ban. The United Kingdom similarly banned the novel until the mid-1930s for its explicit sexuality and graphic depiction of bodily functions. Australia, however, enforced the novel’s suppression on-and-off from its publication until the mid-1950s,” Mic Anderson writes for Britannica.com. However, while some may consider the book to be too obscene, it is considered in high regard by universities around the world for its plot and theme.