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The pen is mightier than the sword they say! Well, history stands testimony to the power of the written words. All too often, books stir up intense emotions in whole communities. Many times, this has led to the silencing of the artist, by banning her work. Below is a list of 5 famous banned authors, whose works are prohibited in different parts of the world:
Erich Maria Remarque (22 June,1898- 25 September,1970)
Born as Erich Paul Remark in Romania, he was a German novelist whose works mainly revolved around the terrors of wars and the horrific conditions of the soldiers and the natives of the states.
His most controversial book All Quiet on the Western Front was written in 1927, and published in 1929. The book described the experiences and encounters faced by the German soldiers in World War 1. Remarque wrote a number of similar works in the successive years. His language was simple and prolific, and they described war time and post war years.
On 10th May,1933, the German Government, on the initiative taken up by the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, banned and publicly burned Remarque’s works. They continued to criticize his works and decry his writings. He was termed as degenerate and unpatriotic. Later, he was banned in Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party.
Nadine Gordimer (20 Nov, 1923- 13 July, 2014)
Nadine Gordimer was a South African writer whose works dealt with moral, racial and apartheid issues in South Africa. Her first published novel was The Lying Days(1953).
Her book, Burger’s Daughter (1979), was banned and the import of the book was prohibited by the Publication Control Board. The book depicts the story of a group of white, anti-apartheid activists in South Africa, who were struggling to overthrow the South African Government. The story was set in the mid 1970s. Although the book was critically acclaimed, the South African Government did not approve of it, which led to the ban.
July’s People(1981) was another controversial creation of hers. The perspective was that of the near future of South Africa, where Gordimer imagined the end of apartheid through Civil War. The book was notably banned in South Africa, and later prohibited even by the post apartheid Government. The book was temporarily banned in schools of Gauteng Province, in South Africa, for a brief period in 2007 as well.
Nadine Gordimer won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. According to Alfred Nobel, she was a woman “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity.”
Salman Rushdie (19 June, 1947-)
He is a British-Indian novelist and essayist. His works explores combination of magical realism and historical fiction. His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses(1988), created great controversy, which resulted in protests from Muslims in several countries. Death threats were made against him, including a fatwa for his assassination by the Supreme Leader of Iran.
The story portrays a much disputed Muslim tradition, that speaks about Muhammad adding verses to the Quran, accepting three goddesses who used to be worshiped in Mecca, as divine beings. As the legend goes, Muhammad later denied the utterance of the verses, claiming that the Devil tempted him to decree them. Hence the name Satanic Verses. However, the narrator reveals to the reader, that these disputed verses were actually from the mouth of Archangel Gibreel.
The publication of the Satanic Verses, in September 1988, caused immediate controversy in the Islamic world. Many Muslim leaders perceived the book as an irreverent depiction of Muhammad. The book was banned in 13 countries including Iran, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia. The publication of the book, and the fatwa, sparked violence around the world, with bookstores being bombed down or demolished. Muslim communities, in several countries, burned copies of the books and rallied against the author. Rushdie was prohibited to enter Pakistan.
Taslima Nasreen (25 August,1962 – )
Taslima Nasreen is a Bangladeshi author, who is currently living in exile. Her poems and novels have been subject to controversy, owing to her feminist ideals and criticism of all misogynistic practices in Islam.
Her novel, Lajja[Shame] (1993), was banned in Bangladesh, after selling 50,000 copies in six months. The story was Taslima Nasreen’s response to anti-Hindu riots that erupted in some parts of her country, soon after the demolition of Babri Masjid in India in 1992. The book indicated that communal feelings were on the rise.
Her autobiography Ka, including its third volume Dwikhandito (Split into Two), was banned by the Bangladeshi Government, as it hurt the sentiments of the Muslim Community.
Amar Meyebela, another Nasreen creation, was banned by the Bangladeshi Government as well.
She was exiled from Bangladesh and her books were burnt in the Calcutta book fair. She was banished from India in 2008.
J.K.Rowling (31 July,1965- )
J.K. Rowling is an eminent British novelist, who is famous as the creator of the teen wizard- Harry Potter. As surprising as it may sound, J.K.Rowling’s most acclaimed works have been subjected to criticism and controversy in certain parts of the world.
Harry Potter series holds #1 position in America Library Association’s 2000-2009 chart of banned books. The reason put forward was that it created a sense of fantasy in children, which led to total exclusion of religion. Many religious heads claim that the books contain occult or Satanic subtexts. A number of Protestant, Catholic, and orthodox Christians have campaigned against the series. In the United States, there were petitions for the books to be banned from schools. The books have already been banned from the private schools in the United Arab Emirates. They were also criticized in the Iranian State-run press. The orthodox churches of Bulgaria and Greece have rallied against the series.
Books are the greatest oasis of knowledge and wisdom. They are also mirrors of varied wisdom and perspectives. Banning an author’s work is akin to murdering a voice that doesn’t sing your tune. We hope that our world will evolve to a point, when we find in us the maturity to hear diverse ideas and imbibe what is meaningful, without being threatened by opposition. Wouldn’t that be paradise?
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