A taste of those beloved books that were just too edgy for the censors
1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
Lolita tells the story of a young man from Paris, Humbert Humbert, who is infatuated with young girls, whom he often calls “nymphets” throughout the novel. He moves to a small American town and becomes obsessed with the daughter of Charlotte Haze and marries her in order to get closer to her daughter, who is 12. He eventually runs away from the town with Charlotte’s daughter in order to pursue a “relationship.” The Home Office swiftly banned Lolita and seized all copies of it on the grounds that it was “pornography”, prompted by the editor of the Sunday Express hailing it “the filthiest book I have ever read.” France banned it the year after but, strangely, Lolita was published without any problem in the US.
2. Where’s Wally? by Martin Hanford (1987)
This seemingly harmless children’s picture book was among the top 100 banned books in the 1980s. The current edition no longer has the offensive content but in the original publication there was a picture of a woman with one exposed breast. It was an extremely small detail but censors found it while going through the book with a magnifying glass. In the current edition, her bikini is left on. #Freethenipple?
3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)
Set in the nineteenth to early twentieth century, this book is a triumph in postcolonial literature. One of the most critically-acclaimed pieces of African literature, Achebe uses nine fictional Nigerian villages and Okonkwo, the protagonist, leader, and wrestling champion, to recall the consequences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his Igbo community. It was banned in Malaysia due to its criticism of colonialism.
4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll
This is that classic, well-loved, yet mildly perturbing children’s book which found itself banned in Human, China at the beginning of 1931 on the grounds that it humanised animals in a way that made them equal to human beings. The censor believed that it was an insult to humans to have animals acting like them and described the concept of children reading the book as “disastrous.”
5. Farenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury
This is true, glorious irony. This book is about banning books. It centres around a fireman whose job it is to burn books, although Bradbury denies that the book is about censorship. It was banned under McCarthyism in the United States due to its perceived accusations of censorship.