Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Different Perspective on Banned Books

An interesting read for Banned Books Week is this piece from last April by Amir Taheri. Written for the London-based Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat, the essay is a review of the reference work 120 Banned Books. It's fascinating and encouraging to read what an exiled Iranian journalist writing for an Arab audience has to say about an issue so central to American librarianship.

Taheri sums up his views in the following passage, and makes a point I found especially interesting in light of last December's "Little Red Hoax":

In most cases the banned books end up by having the last laugh against their censors. Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist despot, banned Confucius” “The Analects” and ordered all its copies seized and burned. Today, however,” The Analects” is back in virtually every Chinese home while Confucius has regained its place as an all time model for the Chinese people. Mao, however, is fading away and almost no one reads his silly little “Red Book” these days.

Russia’s greatest living writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn provides another case. In 1973 his book “The Gulag Archipelago” was banned and he himself expelled from the Soviet Union. In that same year Leonid Brezhnev, the geriatric dictator, won the Lenin Prize for Literature, the highest accolade for writers in the USSR. Even then everybody knew that Brezhnev was incapable of writing a letter to his mother let alone producing literature. And today no one reads Brezhnev, even in lunatic asylums while Solzhenitsyn has secured a place in the Russian classical cannon.

Those tempted into suppressing works of literature, religion and philosophy should read this informative book. May be it will convince them that censorship never works.


Anonymous Ed Merwin, Jr. said...

Good post. I wonder if Sadam ever wrote and "literature" for his people while he was in power. Maybe something titled: Minding my Kurds and whey :-)

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Stephen Denney said...

Thanks for the interesting post. I might make note of it at my blog page too, which is on the subject of banned books and other forms fo censorship. I don't see this so as much as a different perspective, but a complementary perspective to that of American librarianz who are primarily concerned with efforts to remove books from their own libraries for from the school curriculum.

10:46 AM  

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