Whether it was a scandalous story of sex or simply taking issue with a talking pig, many people have found reasons to ban some of the world’s best and most famous books. Court cases have been fought, books have been burned, and fatwas have been issued. Discover the fascinating histories of 12 famous books that have been banned in countries from the USA to the former USSR.
‘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.
Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
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.