21 September 2011

Book banning: What happens in your country?

Book banning, especially in the YA genre, is something that makes me sad, angry and depressed. Whenever I read about banning books I'm reminded of a time in our history that was dark and evil. And I just can't understand why books are still banned.

Of course not every book in Germany is allowed to be published, books with strong right-wing extremist and inflammatory content will not be published in Germany. And I'm happy about it because these kinds of books are evil and dangerous and have no place in our society. But the books that people try to ban in our time, for example in the USA, are different. They are often young adult books or classics that have nothing to do with these things.

Even though I'm against book banning books I think that sometimes we should look more closely for which age group a certain book is suitable. I recently read a German translation of a book and on the book is was said that it was ok for children 14 and up. IMO 16 or up would have been more appropriate but that's not what book banning is about. It's not about making sure that teens are ok, it seems to be about power plays, about forcing your way to see the world on others, about fear and it's about prejudices.

Just yesterday my family and I watched the documentary "Jesus Camp" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Camp, btw what happens in this movie is scary!) and people in it said that Harry Potter is bad and evil because of witchcraft. It's so frightening to realize that people really think that way and are willing to do nearly everything to ban a book like Harry Potter. I also know that some classics like "Catcher in the rye" are banned in some places and I just can't understand why. I know all the arguments but can't understand them. 

In Germany YA books or classics are not banned and people who would try to get books like Harry Potter banned from school or libraries would be laughed at. So I have some trouble to really understand why books are banned and what is really going on. I don't think that my synapses are connected in the right way to ever truly understand the people who try to ban "normal" books. But I still want to try to understand the whole situation. 

So I want to know if books are banned in your country and if they are why? Which books are banned? Who is trying to get books banned, are they successful and what is their motivation?


  1. The situation in Germany is obviously similar to the one in Austria when it comes to books that may (not) be published (or imported from other countries for that matter). It's either political or religious reasons why books are banned in some countries and while I agree with some bans (such as right-wing extremist books) I am baffled at others (such as Harry Potter). Some classics that might have been considered "too different" or simply subversive back in the 60s are still on official banned-books lists which is beyond me. Makes me wonder how far away we are from our own little dystopian world ...

  2. @ Birgit: Well said, especially you last sentence is so true.

  3. I didn't hear about books being banned in Croatia. Although I do remember a time when books were banned for political reasons - this was during Communism (a time before 1990). I do know that church is against Harry Potter and other similar books because "they could lead young on a dangerous path". I am a Catholic and I just love paranormal books, and like you I really don't understand how anyone can ban books. I also believe that if you forbid something it becomes more appealing and people more curious about the reasons behind forbidding it – you get opposite effect, people start reading banned books. So I am glad that as far as I know no books are banned in my country.

  4. I don't think there are currently any books that are banned by the UK government (I looked it up and couldn't find anything) except possibly for one book that taught people how to make bombs.

    Whenever there's an article her on banned books, it's always about books that have been banned in the past or about the US e.g. http://www.banned-books.org.uk/sections/corrosive

    I haven't heard of any issues of censorship in UK schools or libraries!

  5. Been thinking about that lately, too. I recall reading a book about suicide. It was pretty detailed, not giving instructions, but explanations, eg which methods there are, what the actual cause of death is, how these methods change depending on where you're from (China has high buildings, America has guns, we have.. well.. we actually most often hang ourselves, so I guess we have good ropes.. oô) etc, and written by a man from Japan. I think it's never been translated into German (I myself only got some snippets in English for an essay)

    I think the problem with banning books is that you can't really know where to stop. Where are the borders anyway?

    While atheist or open-minded Catholics, Jews, Buddhists (ha, open-minded and Buddhism mostly go hand in hand, I know), Moslems etc. won't have that much a problem with Harry Potter or Phillip Pullman, others will have just as much a problem with the thigns being said or implied there as we have with.. let's say Hitlers 'Mein Kampf'.

    Taking this one as an example - cause it's a good one: I'm not completely German and have been beaten and assaulated because of that. In the defense of all the "Nazis" - I've not only been beaten by Germans, so it's got nothing to do with Neonazis, but with human nature of finding the minority and beating them. That being said -

    Mein Kampf is something I'd not ban completely. Right now teachers, profs and eg history students are allowed to read it. I've read some parts, too (and seriously, did he have a stick in his arse the whole time or just while he wrote/said the stuff?) but the problem for me is that by forbidding us to read certain books the government is implying we're just as easily manipulated or dumb or whatever as our grandparents or as if we don't have a mind of our own. -

    Seeing as how this has actually have happened before I can't really blame them, but I think while these books (political or religious or any controversial books) should be handled with caution and not everyone should be able to read them, yes, but some people should. (As it's done in the case of Mein Kampf and several other books.. Of course especially there you could just download them.. then again, these are google queries that are actually protocolled.. xD)

    It's a fragile thing. I see how there are many people who shouldn't read right-wing extremist books (and wince thinking about who might read this shit etc) and I guess that many people feel like that when they hold Twilight in their hands. But we can't simply forbid it. As soon as we accept one kind of book being banned the next type of book will follow and in the end we might really one day live in our own dystopian world.

    @the pretty books - some Christian schools in the UK banned Harry Potter, but that's nothing in comparison to the US, I guess.. ;) The book I've mentioned above is forbidden everywhere, I think.

    Sabrina - Do you know other books that've been banned in Germany? :o

    It's weird how these things differ from country to country..

  6. I heard recently they weren't letting kids read some book about I think it was either Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson, because of something racist in it. And I know they are always talking about banning Tom Sawyer - because of the slavery part.

  7. There are many books which are banned in Germany (most of them because of racism, there are some list who could be found on the Internet), but as far as I know "Mein Kampf" is not banned, at least not in the normal way. The copyright of "Mein Kampf" belongs to the Free State of Bavaria (till 2016?) and they forbid any legal reprints. But in other languages you can still buy "Mein Kampf", e.g in Turkish. And in used book stores you can also buy "Mein Kampf", so in my opinion "Mein Kampf" is not completely banned.

    I think that book banning is correct, when it comes to racism or other peoples rights. e.g. I mean, I just cannot write a book about someone else where I spread false rumours or where I insult other people. And I think that it's right, to put books on the Index, so only people above 18 can buy them, especially when it comes to sexual or violent content.

    But to ban books because of someone's religious believes is wrong. I mean, it's okay, when someone doesn't want to read a book, but to ban it because of a "few" peoples religion? I personally hate it when other peoples religion (I'm an atheist) rules my life, it's an arrogant way of thinking "My religion forbids Harry Potter, so everybody else shouldn't read Harry Potter too". When a Christian school bans a special book it would be okay, their school, their religion. It doesn't affect me, I don't have to go to this school (if there are other opportunities of course ;))

  8. I remember when the Pope came out against Harry Potter. I'm Catholic and I shook my head at that. I'm not one for book banning. I think it should be up to the parents etc to decide what they find appropriate for their kids.

    The other book that comes to mind when I think of book banning, though it was more controversy than banning is Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

    Here's a list of books that have been banned from places in the US...mind you...not for sale but from libraries etc.


  9. I think it's pretty interesting that banned books, because they are banned - they get more interest! More people want to read them to see why they were banned. So, the funny thing is that the people trying to get a book banned only shine a spotlight on the book. So I am not too worried even though there are a lot of book bannings in schools and libraries in the U.S. People can still get their hands on the book somehow, and they will.




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