Books always enlighten us by giving information, but sometimes, they do more harm than intended, and get expelled in the process. Here is a list of books banned by governments, and the reasons for the stamp-down on them.
Did You Know?
Banned Books Week is an annually held campaign in the United States designed to encourage all readers to read banned and challenged books, before judging them.
Since time immemorial, books have been used as a way to spread knowledge, and as a way to pass on the knowledge, so that any advice may still have a written form. On the other hand, books have also been used to spread propaganda, influence people, and create controversy and chaos. While some books do need to be banned, a few are misunderstood and forced to wither in the dark, without their words ever seeing the light of day.
Books are banned for using profanity, portraying extreme violence, themes of a sexual nature, going against the nature of a current government, rebellion, glorifying drugs, and supporting outright tyranny. Given below are some books that were deemed too controversial to ever be read by the public eye.
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Animal Farm is a dystopian novel relying heavily on allegory, and is a mixture of political satire and fiction. It focuses on the story of two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, who drive away their old master from their farm, and assumed control of it. The novel tries to showcase their adventures, as they try to distinguish themselves from their human masters. It was banned by the British government for fear of souring relations with the Soviet Union, since the character of Napoleon was based on Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
This novel outlines the fantasies of a recently widowed man with young children, ever since his childhood sweetheart dies. It was banned in the United Kingdom, Argentina, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa since its release, owing to its promiscuous nature.
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
This book narrates the story of the protagonist, as he tries to uncover a conspiracy of one of the leading treasures in history – the Holy Grail. The book was banned outright by all religious organizations in almost all countries, for suggesting Jesus Christ’s relations with Mary Magdalene. If you thought the book was controversial, the movie version received more heat, and had to be released after approval from the Catholic Church.
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
The novel narrates the story of a group of boys whose plane crashes on a deserted island. How the boys try to survive on the island without any adult supervision, is the theme of the story. It was banned due to the explicit content and portraying of cannibalism, as well as the notion that man resorts to his primitive instincts while being hidden from the laws of society.
The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie
This book narrates the story through two individuals – Gabreel and Saladin, and the aftermath after they miraculously live after a plane crash. The book was banned by the Indian government for hurting the religious sentiments of the Muslim community. It even gained a fatwā against the author by the Supreme Leader of Iran in 1989.
The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
No book captured teenage angst as this one did. Very blatant and from the heart, it depicts the feelings of teenager Holden Caulfield, as he roams around the city and thinks about leaving his home. The novel was banned by the US government for promoting backtalk and for the unruly behavior of teenagers, for fear of negatively influencing future generations.
Lajja – Taslima Nasrin
Lajja is a novel set in Bangladesh directly after the 1992 Babri Masjid riots. The book was banned by the Indian government as well as many secular governments of the world for fear of inciting communal hatred.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
The novel narrates the story of Randle Patrick McMurphy, and depicts the inner goings of a mental institution. It highlighted the poor state of the health system of the US government, which needed instant reform. Though it was banned by the US government, the movie version of the book still garnered five Academy Awards.
Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India – Joseph Lelyveld
This book showcased the life of Mahatma Gandhi, and tried to hint of a more intimate relationship with his friend Hermann Kallenbach. It was banned by the Indian government for showcasing an important leader of the Indian freedom movement in bad light.
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
It narrated the story of Celie Walker through diary entries, and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather. It was banned for the use of profanity and the sexual violence depicted in it. If anything, it depicts the rise of Celie, as she fights the system and regains her self-respect.
Other Notable Mentions
- Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
- In the Night Kitchen – Maurice Sendak
- In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
- Steal This Book – Abbie Hoffman
- Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
- Nine Hours To Rama – Stanley Wolpert
- Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
- Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
- The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne