What do Lolita, 1984, The Communist Manifesto and Ulysses have in common? All of these books and many more, including such unsuspected examples as The 1001 Nights, have been banned – in different places, at different times and under different regimes.
In honor of the books that get forbidden, removed from shelves or even destroyed the American Library Association proclaimed the last week of September to be “The Banned Books Week”. Far from being just another expression of grudge and resentment against the narrow mindedness of government(s), the focus of this manifestation (and the activities it promotes) is first and foremost on the optimistic side of the story: the persistence of those banned books, the ingenuity of their hidden life and the variety of ways of finding their way to the readers.
Perhaps no government can brag to be totally immune to the virus of censorship. China is usually listed as one of the countries with the least freedom of speech, publication, print etc. And to a certain point it is definitely true: the Chinese General Administration of Press and Publication, the highest organ of printing censorship, is surprisingly thorough. Apart from the predictable suspicious sex-and-politics issues, the precisely defined list of “important topics” which deserve a closer scrutiny, includes even translations of classical texts into modern Chinese.
Nonetheless, it is in China, the country that gets the most blame for the severity of its censors, that we can find the most vivid example of the futility of the attempts to censor and ban books. According to a research, summarized at www.zonaeuropa.com, the estimated ratio of illegal printing is as high as 60% of all books printed, which means that all banned books get printed, circulated and widely read.
An optimistic and inspiring piece of information.