It was recently announced that George Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar, India would contain the world’s first Orwell Museum. The writer is perhaps most famous for his contentious, but classic, Animal Farm as well as 1984 – both of which were originally banned from being published for being anti-communist.
This lead us to wonder what other banned or challenged books you should actually read.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857)
Emma Bovary would be our modern day ‘bad girl’. She smokes, cheats, has sex in carriages and has an appetite for all things gold. Whereas other outrageous female leads repented at the end, Emma never does. This is why her escapades were banned from being read.
Many readers consider her eventual demise as a sort of justice. However, Flaubert poignantly said ‘woman is a vulgar animal from whom man has created an excessively beautiful ideal’. He understood that patriarchy had forced an unreachable image onto women and were therefore responsible for their degradation.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
This is a childhood classic, which sees the main character fall down a rabbit hole and encounter a range of absurd characters and events. In 1931, he book was banned in China for containing anthropomorphised animals.
Censors were fearful that children would place humans and animals on the same level. However, the book is fantastic because it does just that. It gives life to things that were seemingly lifeless and is fun for adults and children alike.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915)
This sees the metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa from being the beloved travelling salesman to a huge bug, alienated by his family and society. Kafka was banned in Czechoslovakia because he only wrote in German, not Czech. He was also banned under the Soviet and Nazi regimes for being decadent and despairing.
It’s hard to see where the decadence lies, unless we consider how a communist might oppose a text where the protagonist is abandoned for being different. It also threatens ideas regarding the family structure, as it’s slowly revealed that Gregor’s family use him for his wages.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
This text is about a humorously named paedophile called Humbert Humbert and his complicated relationship with the ‘nymphet’ Dolores – or Lolita. Nabokov’s first language was Russian, but he managed to create one of the most linguistically beautiful modern English books ever written. The language alone is worth those moments of discomfort.
American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis (1991)
American Psychois full of murder, drugs, sex, prostitutes and opulence. Despite all the awful moments that make you question why you’re still reading, you cannot help but see modern capitalism reflected in the violence and admire the writer for his ability to develop a fascinating protagonist who is based on real killers.