Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned book week

I always thought that the first banned book that I read was Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer. Then again I grew up in Apartheid South Africa where banned books were a bit of a thing. Ironically "To kill a mockingbird" by Harper Lee was one of my school set-work books. The fact that this book has been banned places n the United States I find quite amazing. So much for the American free speech.

Of course under those circumstances I automatically and without much reflection am against banning. To be honest though I realise that I had to give it more thought for other circumstances.

Of course personally I practice self-censorship when it comes to books. I remember being shocked when I saw Mein kampf by Adolf Hitler on sale in Geneva, Switzerland. I was of the view that it should not be available for sale! I was tempted to buy it and burn it! But perhaps advice that someone twittered around the Koran-burning threat on 911 by a church in the US is worth further consideration: reading the book should be a prerequisite if you intend to burn it. I do not intend to ever read Mein kampf. If I start a book I don't like - whatever the reaon - I stop. I give the book away.

When it comes to children I would hope that the parents are aware of what their kids are reading and talk to them about it. That is how I would've handled my children reading Harry Potter (something many christian parents would not let their children read).

Which leaves me wondering whether I am against banning books. As I am currently becoming more aware of violence against women and children and other such things, I don't want to say entirely and unconditionally so. But far too many books have been banned which I do not agree with! As with so many things, it's all about where one draws the line. At some point or another far too many fabulous books have been banned and that is definitely a problem.

I consider Burger's daughter by Nadine Gordimer, and I write what I like by Steve Biko to be probably THE two defining books of my life. They were both banned and that was without a doubt a shame!

source for covers: fantasticfiction.co.uk and Open library


  1. mmmm, for an open minded "over thinker", I am surprised that you would entertain the idea of banning literature...Methinks your beliefs and the rational mind in you "come to blows" over this issue, and that the beliefs win out - but only just.

    My stance is that knowledge is always better than its alternative. I sometimes think that somebody who advocates restrictions in literature, is inadvertently admitting that they are actually insecure in their beliefs/ideas, that exposure to other views would easily persuade them to abandon their current ideas.....


  2. You are surprised that I would even entertain the thought of banning a book? I am no libertarian! Humankind is a nasty, destructive bunch. I think that I was thinking of a books which pretty much give a fairly glossy and glamorous view of rape - when it comes to violence against women & children or against people on the basis of their race, personal beliefs or the such, yip I think controlling it is something worth considering. I also believe in gun control! (It was quite an experience to be a member of Gun Free SA, but gave up on that as there was almost no attempt at real, open debate or discussion). While I might be willing to go to pretty extreme lengths to defend the notion that God has given us free choice and allows us to exercise that choice, not so sure that I support allowing everyone to exercise their own free choice without doing something to make it clear that it is not always ok and that exercising some choices should have consequences.