Eight Banned Books That Might Surprise You
1. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
‘Curiouser and curiouser…’
Very curiously indeed, Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic was banned in China in 1931 on account of the animal characters’ ability to speak. The governor of Hunan province at the time, Ho Chien, expressed concern about ‘anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings.’
2. A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
‘"It’s quite exciting,” said Sherlock Holmes, with a yawn.’
The first in the series about the world’s most famous detective, A Study in Scarlet is still to this day banned in one school in America because of its unfavourable comments about Mormonism. Conan Doyle writes, ‘[t]he invisibility and the mystery which was attached to it [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] made this organisation doubly terrible,’ and later describes how, ‘the supply of adult women was running short [...] fresh women appeared in the harems of the Elders – women who pined and wept, and bore upon their faces the traces of an unextinguishable horror.’
3. Ulysses, James Joyce
‘Think you're escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home. ’
This account of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom is loved and hated in equal measure, though more for its rambling, experimental prose style than any particularly offensive subject matter. It was, however, found to be obscene by several authorities: click here to read the 1922 letter by the British Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Archibald Bodkin, declaring Ulysses a ‘filthy’ book and suggesting that it ‘not be allowed to be imported into the country.’ The book remained banned in the UK until the 1930s, and in 1933 was the subject of the most famous obscenity trial in US history.
4. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
‘We shall all have to be judged according to our works…’
Anna Sewell’s novel, which charmingly claims on its title page to have been ‘translated from the equine,’ is one of the best-selling books of all time. However, the story goes that in South Africa during apartheid (1948-1994), the book was banned on the grounds that the censor had not read it and assumed from its title that it promoted the rights of black people. Several textbooks on the history of South Africa state this as fact, though there is a great deal of scepticism from scholars, who believe the story must be an urban myth – perhaps simply because such ignorance beggars belief.
The Diary of a Young Girl