You can’t say that! – Banning Books because …
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll), All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Ramarque) and American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis), what do they all have in common?
Answer: They were all banned at one point in time. Carol’s anthropomorphising of animals was unacceptable in China in the 1930s, Ramarque’s portrayal of the Wehrmacht was rejected by Nazi Germany, while the State of Queensland said no to Ellis upon its publication in 1991.
With Banned Book Week just around the corner it is worth taking a moment to reflect upon censorship globally and question the reasons and rights of those who say no to ideas.
Perhaps the process of banning books, and the ensuing public outcry this can cause, can lead us to question the greater moral imperatives in society. Book banning can often be a product of the era. Would Uncle Tom’s Cabin (banned in the Confederate States during the American Civil War for its anti-slavery content) be banned in the States today? I think not.
However a more recent case in Australia saw John Dickson’s A Sneaking Suspicion banned by the New South Wales Education Department with no reason given. When a society starts banning books ‘because we said so’ then we should question those decisions even further.
Some books are banned for fairly obvious reasons. Mein Kampf, for instance, was banned in various European countries but earlier this year was reissued by the state of Bavaria. This is certainly a particularly controversial instance of book banning (and ban reversing), but isn’t there an argument that we should read controversial books and discuss them like adults? Does anyone believe Vladimir Nabokov was advocating the type of relationship depicted in Lolita?
I would argue that questioning book censorship is an important part of how we grow as a society. But we can’t all be railing against the world all the time, so as a smaller act of censorship rejection perhaps the next book we all read should be a banned book.
So let me leave you with this, to help others achieve their own little bit of rebellion, what is your favourite banned book?