Search

Banned books on reading list at provocative Hornsey exhibition

17:00 21 November 2011

Hornsey Library Banned Book exhibition 10.11.11. From left Sian Segal and Lucy Matteson (principal librarians) and Susan Wright (librarian).

Hornsey Library Banned Book exhibition 10.11.11. From left Sian Segal and Lucy Matteson (principal librarians) and Susan Wright (librarian).

Archant

At first glance George Orwell’s seminal novel Animal Farm and the children’s classic Black Beauty have little in common.

Five banned books

* JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series was burnt in many US states for promoting witchcraft.

* Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was banned for sale in the United States because of its sexual content and swearing.

* Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, the moving story of a girl forced into hiding because of the Holocaust, was banned in Lebanon as it was deemed to portray Jews in too favourable a light.

* Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein has been banned over the past two centuries for being indecent and obscene.

* Vladimir Nabokov’s tale of sexual lust, Lolita, was banned in the UK, France, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa.

The former is a cutting critique of Stalinist Russia, while the latter is a touching family-friendly story which promotes the values of kindness and respect by tracing the often tough life of a horse.

Yet both novels appear in a thought provoking new exhibition about banned books at Hornsey Library in Haringey Park, Crouch End.

Sian Segel, manager of the library, said: “The aim is to get people to think about the whole exercise of banning things, and how important freedom of expression is to society.”

Many of the books on display are well known for the political and moral controversies their publication sparked.

The 18th Century French satirist Voltaire makes an appearance for his book Candide.

So too do Republican writer Ernest Hemmingway and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian Nobel prize winning author whose harrowing stories of gulags singled him out as an enemy of the Soviet Union.

Yet others are more surprising.

Black Beauty was banned in apartheid South Africa merely because it had the word “black” in the title, in a case that illustrates that a state’s decision to prohibit literature is usually shaped by its own insecurities.

Leafing through the books on display, what is striking is the sheer talent censors had once wanted to bottle-up and shut away.

DH Lawrence’s famous novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover is one such book.

It only hit England’s shelves after publishers Penguin appeared in the dock at The Old Bailey in 1959 and argued that the novel was of sufficient “redeeming social merit” it might be published. Bookshops sold out within days.

In trying to keep the novel from public consumption, prosecutors had piqued the interest of readers, and had well and truly let the genie out of the bottle.

Even Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was banned in the Hunan province in China in 1931 for portraying animals on the same level as humans.

Yet today, these books read as a “best of” of world literature.

Librarian Lucy Matheson said: “Twenty years ago something might have been very controversial, but now we may not think anything about picking up a copy.

“This exhibition is not about passing judgement on that, but about having that debate and exploring the issues raised in these books.”

The controversy surrounding banning books is still very much a live one.

Highgate School, the prestigious independent school, sparked controversy last month when it banned the Cherub series of children’s spy books by Robert Muchamore from its junior school in Bishopswood Road, Highgate.

The decision was made following complaints by a handful of parents and a planned visit by the Crouch End based author was also cancelled.

Yet exhibitions like this one offer cautionary tales against censorship.

Ms Matheson said: “Freedom of expression is really important, and that is what a library like this one is all about – pushing the boundaries.”

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

34 minutes ago
The Hall school  triathlon team

A team of 40 mothers and staff from The Hall School, in Hampstead, are running the Blenheim Triathlon on June 4 to raise money for a Swiss Cottage youth project.

09:16
The man was stabbed in Camden High Street near Greenland Street

A murder investigation has been launched after a man in his 30s died after being stabbed on Camden High Street in the early hours this morning.

Chris Roche wants Muswell Hill Library to stay put. Photo: Polly Hancock

A renowned architect fears the historic library will be moved to the site of the former Green Man pub, rather than adapted for greater disability access

Fri, 12:58
Nurul Islam celebrates at his Belsize Park kiosk with customers and Ham&High reporter Emily Banks, right.       Picture: Polly Hancock

The vendor who runs the Belsize Park newspaper kiosk today thanked his customers for pressuring Camden Council into doing a u-turn over the rent hike which threatened his business.

Fri, 11:17
Gabriella with mum Nazanin on her first birthday

A distraught father whose daughter faces her second birthday detained in Iran without her parents has urged children around the world to send her a birthday card.

Fri, 10:56
Victor in Delhi

A ‘smart and popular’ 22-year-old who died in a motorbike crash has been remembered at his former school.

Thu, 18:09
A pole will be located at the end of Nassington  Road by the entrance to Hampstead Heath

New plans for an Orthodox Jewish boundary across Camden have been submitted.

Thu, 15:34
The mystery girl was found wandering in  the evening in Daleham Gardens

Police are trying to trace an 11-year-old girl who was discovered wandering in the street in her pyjamas saying she had run away from home.

PROMOTED CONTENT

There are no rules when it comes to buying studio pottery beyond choosing what you love

With The Great Pottery Throwdown captivating viewers across the nation, pottery courses at capacity, and hipsters snapping up vintage studio pieces to display their succulents in and post on Instagram, studio pottery and ceramics are definitely having a moment.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Win a BMW 1 series

There are fewer cars currently on the market more stylish and exciting than the BMW. Known all over the world as one of the best car manufacturers, the BMW is renowned for sleek designs and fantastic high quality workmanship.

Kindle 7 inch tablet

Are you looking for a brand new gadget to help you stay connected on the go and make that long journey home a bit more entertaining? Look no further. MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Kindle Fire 7” Display Tablets! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe