Over thirty years of legal action, the frank sexuality of Henry Miller's musing on the human condition made Tropic of Cancer an incredibly famous book, despite the fact that few ever got the chance to read it. After all, who would not be curious about a book described by a Pennsylvania judge as 'an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity'? This reputation, and the book's legal publication in the 1960s were a major benchmark that all candidly sexual books published since could not exist without.
The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
De Beauvoir rejects biological essentialism – a woman is more than a womb – and instead investigates the nebulous quality of femininity, leading to her most famous dictum: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Woman, she observes, is the Other, the exception, the oddity – allowing Man to become the unexamined default form of humanity. De Beauvoir compares women’s oppression to that of Jews, the US’s black population, the proletariat and colonised nations, but she concludes that sexism is a unique force because women live with, even love, their oppressors.
Simone de Beauvoir. Photograph: Rex Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Simone de Beauvoir. Photograph: Rex
From these theoretical underpinnings, she offers a panoramic sweep through women’s lives: work, motherhood, representation in literature, economic independence, sexuality, ageing and the boredom of cleaning the dust behind the wardrobe. (Housework “is holding away death but also refusing life”, she observes, which is my new go-to explanation for the filthiness of my fridge). De Beauvoir’s prose is piercing, aquiline; she is unapologetic about its intellectual demands. Her answers are simple, but endlessly elusive: women must be educated like men, paid like men, and given unfettered access to birth control and divorce. Women must be treated like full human beings, as men are.
Letters by Kurt Vonnegut
In his fiction, Vonnegut could be sardonic, sarcastic, and outright hilarious, but he took it seriously when school boards tried to ban his work. In this collection of his letters, he writes impassioned letters in defense of his novel Slaughterhouse Five, which censors have deemed immoral because of profanity and sexuality. In 1973, after a North Dakota high school burned copies of the book, Vonnegut wrote the principal: "Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am."
Lolita - Vladmir Nabokov
Ulysses - James Joyce
Lady Chatterley's Lover - DH Lawrence
'Sexual intercourse began in nineteen sixty-three (which was rather late for me) -Between the end of the 'Chatterley' ban and the Beatles' first LP.'
Phillip Larkin was not the only person for whom Lady Chatterley's Lover marked a seismic change in society. First published privately in Italy in 1928, Penguin's decision to publish the original explicit text in 1960 led to perhaps the most famous trial in literary history. EM Forster defended it in the dock, the prosecution famously asked 'would you wish your wife or servants to read' it, and its eventual publication saw it sell in the hundreds of thousands and help to bring in the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
A cautionary tale of a world grown too used to artificial comfort built on exploitation, censors of the unbrave old world found much in the book unpalatable. Ireland banned it for what they saw as its comments against religion and the traditional family, as well as its uses of strong language, and India went as far as calling Huxley a 'pornographer' for his depiction of a world where recreational sex was encouraged from a young age.
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
Although many books found themselves in the Nazi book-burning bonfires of 1933, including seminal writers and thinkers like Kafka, Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein, none were as critical of wartime Germany as All Quiet on the Western Front. Seen as unpatriotic by the National Socialists and even a number of non-Nazi aligned military personnel and writers, what these groups and individuals disliked about the book is exactly what makes it so compelling an account of the true horrors of warfare.
Animal Farm - George Orwell
Although it will come as no surprise that Orwell's thinly veiled satire of the brutalities of communism was banned in the Stalinist USSR, its status as a banned book has lasted well past the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is still banned in Cuba and North Korea (for the same reasons as it was banned by the Soviets), and has also been prohibited in Kenya for its criticism of corruption and, more bizarrely by UAE schools for its depiction of a talking pig which was deemed as contrary to Muslim values.
( And the 1984 as well was banned!:))
The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye has the fascinating double distinction of being both the most banned and the second most taught book in American schools. Its defenders see it as the definitive look at the frustrations and ennui of teenage life, whereas its prosecutors have seen it as causing everything from murders to suicides to the spreading of communist ideas in America. What censors have failed to realize, however, is that banning a book due to its depiction of teenage rebellion is just going to make rebellious teenagers seek it out even more.
Howl, by Alan Ginsberg
1956 - City Lights Books out of San Francisco publishes “Howl and Other Poems and brought out the first edition.
In 1957 the City Lights Books publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested and put on trial for publishing and disseminating obscene material. So Ginsberg’s generation-defining poem “Howl” was a casualty of censorship.
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked..."
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
The Well of Loneliness - Radclyffe Hall
Emblematic of just how repugnant most found homosexuality in the early 20th century, Radclyffe Hall's lesbian romance was at the center of an obscenity trial despite featuring no erotic scenes save a brief moment where it is only implied that the two figures may have spent the night together. No matter how chaste the content of the book, censors found a book written by a lesbian and featuring lesbian characters too obscene for publication. Although countered by literary luminaries including the Woolfs, EM Forster, and TS Eliot, the campaign against The Well of Loneliness remains a homophobic stain on Britain's literary history.
Mother Courage and her Children by Berolt Brecht
There are many different contexts to the book and they are all
clear reflection of the Second World War and today's wars.
Brecht’s book was banned from Germany and some of his performances were even disrupted by police and due to the portrayal of the war through his work his plays were socially unacceptable. Due to this
social implication the context of Brecht’s play itself conveyed the true nature of the war to its extremes and this decision is clearly apparent in Mother Courage and her Children. The Chaplin was observed as the ironic hypocrite whom represented religion but was too scared to stand up for what he believe.
So Mother Courage and her Children is my favorite banned book.