Celebrated author Salman Rushdie was stabbed on Friday while he was on stage during a literary event in the United States. He is currently on a ventilator and it is feared that he could lose an eye.
Rushdie is among a very few authors who are not only detested by religious fundamentalists, but also face a threat to life. His novel The Satanic Verses is the reason for all the threats he faces. It is about two characters who are very much imbued in Islamic culture and face difficulty managing Western influences. An allegedly blasphemous portrayal of a character modelled after Prophet Mohammad has caused blatant disliking for Rushdie among the majority of Muslim community.
On numerous occasions, Rushdie has faced threats that have forced him to limit his public appearances. His Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi was assassinated in 1991. Even a bounty was issued on Rushdie's head by spiritual leader of Iran Ayatollah Ruhollah.
Rushdie is not the only author whose book has attracted blatant detestation. There are umpteen number of instances when books have been banned as they hurt sentiments of a community or threatened the authority of the government.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was aware of George Orwell's novel Animal Farm. It was seen as an allegory to his ruling. When Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, it further irritated him. As a result, he used his power to ban the book. This ban remained till 1990.
This is ironic today when this book is seen as a masterpiece for depicting a dystopian state in a totalitarian rule. It faced ire from both the ends of the political spectrum. In America, many saw this book as pro-communism and demanded removing it from stalls. Others saw it as a mockery of communist state.
Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell
Although, it is not surprising that 1984 was banned in Stalin's USSR, as Orwell presented a brilliant satire on his rule by depicting a dystopian state. But interestingly, Orwell's Animal Farm is still banned in countries like Cuba and North Korea for reasons similar to Soviet Russian’s ban of 1984. This book is also prohibited in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as it talks about pigs and pigs are considered polluted as per Islamic values.
Tropic of Cancer (1934) by Henry Miller
This is one of the rare books that faced over hundred cases of obscenity and bans from various countries. An autobiographical account of Henry Miller's sexual exploits with confounding philosophised commentary irritated conservatives of various countries.
This book espouses anti- Semitism, misogyny, and racism, which attracted criticism from progressive circles. However, this book gave impetus to freedom of press demand as many readers smuggled its copy to read the account of Miller's sexual candour.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) by DH Lawrence
First published privately in Italy in 1928 and then in France 1929, this book was banned in England on the ground of obscenity. In 1960, the publisher Penguin won the famous case that allowed the publication of this book. Penguin went on to sell more than 3 million copies within a few days. This book became notorious for explicit depiction of sexual relationship between working-class men and upper-class women.
Taking a jibe at the prolonged ban on the book, British poet Philip Larkin famously said, “Sexual intercourse began/in nineteen sixty-three/(which was rather late for me)/Between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban/and the Beatles’ first LP.”
Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov
Banned in France, England, Argentina, and a few others for being obscene, Lolita was one of the unconventional yet controversial books which is read for wonderful prose. It is the love story of a troubled yet intelligent paedophile and his young nymphet.
The storyline is extremely bizarre, but Vladimir Nabokov rendered beautiful prose with a flavour of eroticism. It, however, caused moral panics in countries like France, Argentina, and New Zealand.
The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by JD Salinger
Many people in the United States believe The Catcher in the Rye contains foul language and promotes drug abuse. Therefore, this book still makes many uncomfortable.
The central character of the novel, 16-years-old Holden, uses alcohol and drugs to escape bad experiences. Holden lusts over women. Many parents feared that Holden's character would influence their teenage kids and push them toward drugs and suicide. This book remained banned in many schools and libraries across the United States.