February 25 to March 3 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada. According to the website ,
“Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom.”
The first books I read upon leaving India were, of course, titles banned back there. I started with “Nine Hours to Rama” by Stanley Wolpert, and went on to “Mother India” by Katherine Mayo.
A banned book, by definition, ought to have a unique, original idea (offensive or subversive or otherwise) that led to its subsequent banishment. I’m unable to fathom why the Indian government banned these boring and banal books; there’s nothing remotely thought-provoking about them. I have seldom felt so let-down; it’s like biting into a chili pepper and finding out it’s actually a string bean. Just un-ban them already!
Anyway, the Freedom to Read website includes a list of “challenged books” in Canada–books that organizations or individuals sought to remove from general public access (in schools or libraries), over the past 21 years. The list includes some standard ire-rousers–Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Andrea Dworkin’s Pornography, and, um, Madonna’s Sex, but there are also some surprises. Such as Marguerite Duras’s Man Sitting in a Corridor:
1993—A Canada Customs agent prohibited entry after leafing through the novel. The shipment was destined for use in a graduate course at Trent University. Cause of objection—The book was ruled obscene because of its portrayal of “sex with violence.” Update—The ruling was appealed and the shipment was released.
And David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars. And To Kill a Mockingbird.
The website encourages Canadians to read challenged books and mags that week; I plan to re-read my Harry Potters, which have apparently been challenged for espousing witchcraft.