Warning: Contains Obscene Language

Our society is no stranger to censorship when it comes to works of literature. Over the centuries, and for a variety of reasons, communities, government and religious authorities across the globe have challenged books and their content. Some “hot topics” have included material that: is sexually explicit, is unsuitable for children, involves objectionable religious or political views, or includes nudity, homosexuality, or racism. Offensive language is something else that has repeatedly pushed the buttons of the censorship committees.

The “offensive language” card has recently been played by the Russian government, which has passed a legislation to ban swearing, not just in books, but also in films, on television and in any public performances. In particular, four colloquial words have been figuratively “burned”, and include terms referring to male and female genitalia, and one for a promiscuous female. The law, which comes into effect on 1 July, will also require that any books, CDs or films containing offensive language must be sealed and marked “contains obscene language.”

For many of us, being refused a particular thing makes it all the more alluring. If that sounds like you, then maybe one of the following books – all of which have been banned sometime, somewhere – will be your next naughty literary pick. You may find some of this (surprisingly abbreviated) collection rather unexpected.

  • The Bible
  • The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (late 14th century)
  • Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe (1722)
  • Candide, Voltaire (1759)
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1818)
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawtorne (1850)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (1856)
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1865)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (1884)
  • Little Black Sambo, Helen Bannerman (1899)
  • The Call of the Wild, Jack London (1903)
  • Ulysses, James Joyce (1922)
  • Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler (1925)
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence (1928)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque (1929)
  • Brave new World, Aldous Huxley (1932)
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (1936)
  • The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (1939)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway (1940)
  • Animal Farm, George Orwell (1945)
  • The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank (1947)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams (1947)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (1949)
  • The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger (1951)
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
  • Howl, Allen Ginsberg (1956)
  • Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs (1959)
  • Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss (1960)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960)
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1961)
  • Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak (1963)
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1966)
  • The World is Full of Married Men, Jackie Collins (1968)
  • The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey (1969)
  • The Stud, Jackie Collins (1969)
  • The Anarchist Cookbook, William Powell (1971)
  • Burger’s Daughter, Nadine Gordimer (1979)
  • July’s People, Nadine Gordimer (1981)
  • Spycatcher, Peter Wright (1985)
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
  • The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie (1988)
  • American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis (1991)
  • The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
  • My Father’s Daughter, Hannah Pool (2005)
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Emma is an ardent writer, reviewer and editor. She currently lives in Orange, NSW, where she shares her time between writing, undergraduate studies in Linguistics and French (oui, c’est vrai!), and her “day job” as a yoga teacher. Emma especially enjoys reading women’s fiction, contemporary fiction and the classics.

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