Censorship is nothing new to the world of literature or academia. Reasons vary greatly across countries and continents, although you’re more likely to find banned books in schools, libraries, and communist and heavily influenced religious countries. This is primarily because of a conflict of ideals, fear of revolution, ill-perceived truth, or inaccuracies that show a faith or history in a negative light.
In a few cases, history plays a larger role. History and fear surround Austria’s decision to ban Hitler’s Mein Kampf. His personal manifesto has influenced many people toward hate crimes and acts of violence. In this case, it’s difficult to find fault in the government’s decision, even if the book itself gives unique insight into the mind of one of history’s mass murderers and what preceded the atrocities he and his people performed during WWII.
Here are other popular books of historical or thought-provoking significance that European countries have banned.
Castration of the Wind by Prvoslav Vujčić
Countries banned—Yugoslavia, 1984
Prvoslav Vujčić wrote this collection of poems while in prison for another book of poems (Razmišljanja jednog leša or Thoughts of a Corpse is English) that the Communist government of Yugoslavia had also banned. Both books were banned because of his “criticizing of Yugoslavia’s communist regime,” and despite the fall of the communist body, they remain banned today.
Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan
Countries banned—Ireland, 1958. Also banned in Australia and New Zealand. NZ re-allowed publication in 1963.
Ireland didn’t give a reason behind their ban of Brendan Behan’s autobiography. The Irish Censorship of Publications Board didn’t have to reveal a reason either, but the speculation of others has led to the reasons stemming from the Catholic Church and his criticism of Irish republicanism. There is also adolescent sexually depicted in the book.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Countries banned—Lebanon (2004), Egypt, Pakistan (2006), and certain Indian states (2006)
Nowhere in Europe did a ban officially occur for the book. Many within the Catholic Church did denounce the story and the ones that followed, but some clergy have used the controversy as a tool to educate their members.
Lebanon, Egypt, India, and other non-European countries did ban it for its Catholic inaccuracies, and perhaps, more notably, the fact that Dan Brown claims 99% of the story is true and historical fact. In an odd occurrence, more countries banned the film than the book, which included Greece and China. India allowed the film, but they required disclaimers at the beginning and end.
Droll Stories by Honoré de Balzac
Countries banned—Canada (1914) and Ireland (1953)
One of the founders of realism in European literature, Honoré de Balzac wasn’t alive to see his short story collection banned. Droll Stories was incomplete in 1850, having only released 3 out of 10 volumes when the prolific writer died in France. Publishers would go on to translate and illustrate versions. The obscene nature of the erotic tales is what led to its ban in Ireland. However, the Irish government removed the ban in 1967.
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Countries banned—Russia, 1973
Soviet Russia banned The Gulag Archipelago because of the negative light the non-fiction book shined on forced labor in Russian camps, which, according to Solzhenitsyn, was the source of their fear-driven power. Many in these camps were political prisoners and ordinary criminals. It further details purges, show trials, and the development of the Gulag system. He used firsthand stories of 227 prisoners to write the non-fiction work. The book was banned until the 1980s and is now mandatory high school reading in Russian schools.
Banned literature is not uncommon. Even though these books are sometimes just works of fiction, political and religious ideals have made their exposure to the public scarce.