We see book-burning as a crime against humanity: it’s intolerable because books represent a kind of freedom to us.
~ Samantha Harvey
PG wonders where book-banning falls in the field of crimes or harmful actions against humanity.
To his way of thinking, book-burning and book-banning are two sides of the same coin – taking actions that are not calculated to rebut the opinions of authors with whom some or many disagree, but rather pursuing a course designed to remove political thoughts deemed by someone to be offensive or incorrect from all human perception.
Harmful and Undesirable: Book Censorship in Nazi Germany
From The Jewish Book Council:
Readers may be familiar with the photograph of the Nazi-orchestrated book burning in front of a German university in May, 1933. What is not widely known is that Hitler’s government established a rigid system of book censorship and an index of undesirable books that existed until the end of the war. Inherent in Nazi ideology was the claim to total domination of the world of ideas.
In his new book, Harmful and Undesirable: Book Censorship in Nazi Germany, Guenter Lewy informs us that 5,485 book titles were banned by the end of the war. The entire censorship process was implemented by a number of competing bureaucracies, but mainly the Reich Chamber of Literature (RSK). The banned books included those of alleged moral corruption, works of Marxism and pacifism, books and articles perceived as damaging the martial spirit and morale of the German people and those propagating Catholic or other confessional ideas, and works that fell into the catch designation of “failure to live up to what was to be expected in the new Germany.” But what of books and publications by Jewish authors and publishing companies?
Nazi propaganda had long equated being Jewish with being un-German. But an unexpected complication came with banning “Jewish” books: after the Nuremberg Laws were implemented in 1935, it became increasingly difficult to determine which “Jews” were to have their books banned — three-quarter Jews, half-Jews, quarter-Jews? There was also the difficulty of Jewish publishing firms. In the 1930s the Nazi government was in desperate need of foreign currency, and closing down Jewish owned publishing houses meant a severe loss of essential income. However, Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, insisted that culture trumped economic necessity; and so many Jewish-owned cultural enterprises were “Aryanized.” Goebbels argued that “the people of the poets and thinkers had let their culture be administered by Semites,” and claimed that “40percent of all German authors had been Jews,” who “had developed their decadent and corrosive version of German literature in order to subjugate the German people, a step in the Jewish conspiracy to rule the world.”
Until 1938, the struggle against Jewish books was focused on those written by assimilated German Jews. The list of banned Jewish authors included such writers as Vicky Baum, Emil Ludwig, Lion Feuchtwanger, Franz Kafka, Arthur Schnitzler, Kurt Tucholsky, Franz Werfel, and Arnold and Stefan Zweig. In addition, the Ministry of Propaganda warned the book trade that no mention was to be made anywhere of the works of Heinrich Heine. One Nazi journal pronounced that “Heine is not a poet, he is a Jew.” Once World War II started in 1939, the works of Jewish authors worldwide were either banned or placed on an index of undesirable books.
Link to the rest at The Jewish Book Council
From Culture Trip:
The control of the Soviet government stretched long and far. Literature, being one of the most powerful forms of conversing ideas, was under the close watchful eye of censors. While some books were edited, some were completely banned. Here are ten works that were banned in the Soviet Union.
. . . .
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
The novel Doctor Zhivago had a very unfortunate fate. The manuscript was first approved by the government publishing house, but some time later they retracted their decision. The reason was the anti-revolutionary sentiment in the book. Luckily, Pasternak had also sent a copy to an Italian publisher who refused to return his copy and went ahead to publish the book in Europe. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel, but under the pressure from the Soviet government, declined it.
. . . .
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
A seemingly innocent book about a traveller stuck on a deserted island, nevertheless this book made the list of foreign books unwelcome in the USSR. The main fault of Robinson Crusoe is the idea that one man can carry out so many heroic acts. In the views of the Soviet government, history is made by a collective effort, not by the acts of separate people. As a result the book was basically rewritten, skipping most of the time Robinson Crusoe spent alone and placing more emphasis on ideas of the importance of human society.
. . . .
Animal Farm by George Orwell
This story tells of farm animals that have had enough of being overpowered by their owners, and instigate a coup. New rules are installed to make sure that everybody is equal, but eventually some were more equal that others. The comparison to the 1917 Russian Revolution was evident and to no surprise the novel was forbidden by the Soviet government who didn’t appreciate the author’s irony. Animal Farm along with other writings of Orwell were forbidden in Russia until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Link to the rest at Culture Trip
Spotlight on Censorship: ‘Eleanor and Park’
From The Intellectual Freedom Blog, sponsored by The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association:
Published in 2013, Eleanor & Park is a young adult novel of first love, acceptance, and self-image. For the first time, this New York Times bestseller is listed on ALA’s Top Ten Challenged Books list, clocking in at No. 10.
While there are a number of discussions and debates about the problematic depiction of race and abuse in the book, the reason most consistently reported to ALA for parental complaints is offensive language.
In an interview with The Toast, author Rainbow Rowell talks about the irony of these objections.
“Eleanor and Park themselves almost never swear … I use profanity in the book to show how vulgar and sometimes violent the characters’ worlds are.”
On the first page, Park is pressing his headphones into his ears.
“He’s trying to block out the profanity! And Eleanor hates that her stepfather curses so much. She complains about it throughout the book,” said Rowell in the interview. “There’s also some pretty vulgar sexual language that the parents have objected to: Someone harasses Eleanor by writing gross things on her school books. It’s one of the more traumatic things that happens to her.”
During the 2013 challenge in Minnesota, Anoka High School principal Mike Farley explained to the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the novel mirrors some of the same situations students find themselves in.
“We did acknowledge some of the language is rough, but it fits the situation and the characters. I deal with this stuff every day working in the school with students. Did I think the language was rough? Yes,” Farley said. “There is some tough stuff in there, but a lot of the stuff our kids are dealing with is tough.”
The parents challenged the book’s selection for school libraries, calling it “vile profanity.” They cited 227 uses of profanity or the Lord’s name in vain, including 60 instances of the “F” word.
“It’s is the most profane and obscene work we have ever read in our lives,” said one parent, Troy Cooper, to the Star Tribune.
In 2016, incensed Chesterfield parents were joined by Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase in demanding that Eleanor & Park be removed from voluntary summer reading lists, calling the books “pornographic” and filled with “vile, vile, nasty language.”
Ultimately, based on the recommendation of the review committee, Superintendent James Lane concluded that the book would not be banned. But it also can not be recommended. No books can be recommended by anyone in the Chesterfield County School District. Summer reading lists can no longer be distributed to students by teachers or librarians.
Instead of talking about language and the power of words like profanity or racial slurs, censors trash talk the novel and often the author, librarians, and teachers who recommend it. In both the Minnesota case and the Virginia case, the school librarians were threatened with disciplinary action and termination.
In both of these public cases, the book was retained in the school library.
Link to the rest at The Intellectual Freedom Blog