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 News Stories

17:00
Mini Mozart Protestwith Clare-Louise Shaw  outside The Venue in the O2 Centre after the their last class. Picture: Nigel Sutton

A popular toddler group which plays classical music to Hampstead’s babies has been banished from its new home after being embroiled in a bitter row with another pre-school club.

11:55
David Cameron. Picture: PA/Anthony Devlin.

Conservatives in Hampstead have spoken out to defend residents after Prime Minister David Cameron attacked Labour leader Ed Miliband for personifying the “we-know-best attitude of the Hampstead socialist”.

11:51
Have your say: Take part in our General Election 2015 survey

With a month to go before the 2015 General Election we want to know your views.

16:20
Mayor of Camden at Celebration lunch for students of Children and Young Peoples Workforce course at Sidings Community Centre. Picture: Nigel Sutton

A new education programme allowing mothers in West Hampstead to study close to their homes has celebrated a 100 per cent success rate.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

The latest North London property news and features straight into your inbox.

Other Emails:
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Vroom! You could be emmersed in the action at the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship.

The MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship fires into Brands Hatch on 17/18/19 April for one of the most anticipated seasons in recent years as 39 riders are set for two fierce contests on the 1.2 mile Indy circuit.

Munch on a tasy three course dinner at The Refinery!

“Where to go for a drink near Great Portland Street?” was previously met with blank expressions and shrugs for those local to the area, not anymore, thanks to the opening of The Refinery at Regent’s Place, the eighth bar and restaurant from hugely-successful group Drake & Morgan.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder