Monday, October 5, 2009

What did you read during banned books week?

I had planned to read a banned book especially during banned book week but could not, for various reasons. So I decided to make a list of some banned books I've recently (or not so recently) read. These could have been banned in any country/organization. Here goes:

1. Satanic Verses: re-reading

2. The Jewel of Medina

3. The God of Small Things

4. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

5. Animal Farm

6. Ismat Chughtai's 'Lihaf' (technically a short story but one of my faves)

7. The Diary of Anne Frank

8. The Da Vinci Code (technically not literature or even really a book, but heck it was banned in Lebanon)

9. Doctor Zhivago

10. The Grapes of Wrath

11. The Gulap Archipelego (started reading it, but now it sits staring balefully at my from my bedside table)

12. Lady Chatterly's Lover

13. Lajja

14. Lolita

15. 1984

16. The Kite Runner

These are the ones I remember. I know there are many more.

But perhaps more important than a mere listing of books is the question: Why should we read banned books?

This is what I think.

The freedom to think, to read and to write whatever we want is to me a fundamental right. For, if there can be limits to what we can read, what else is left? Policing what we can and cannot read is like posting a cop in our brains. No matter how heinous, gruesome, or disturbing, the freedom of expression relies on the premise that we all need to defend each other's rights to expression despite our own discomforts with these expressions.

Unorthodox viewpoints, unpopular ways of looking at the world and its people creates a tension. A tension that makes us grow and explore and develop in new and unexepected ways. It is important to challenge the status quo, for it is in doing so that humanity develops.

This does not mean that we all have to agree. On the contrary. Instead it creates a free, equal, and open forum for discussion in which those for and against an idea can debate it in the marketplace of ideas.

Constraining thought in a free society points the way towards totalitarianism sometime down the road.

I have the right to read what I want to. You have the right not to. I cannot mandate that you must read what I decide. And you cannot tell me that I cannot read what I want to.

So, during this state of economic instability and the general malaise in the world, let us all put away our lists. Try to read at least one banned book a year. Make yourself heard by picking up a banned book and quietly proclaiming that you believe, truly believe in the freedom of thought and expression. And that, ultimately, you are fully prepared to debate this and all other thoughts you hold dear.

For nothing is sacrosanct. And ultimately, that makes every thought valuable enough to be debated openly, to be discussed honestly. And what better freedom of expression can there be.

Don't wait for the next banned books week. Read a banned book.

1 comment:

Kguti24 said...

I am a college student and I am researching banned books. I stumbled across your blog and was really interested with what you had to say. The one that came to my attention was how The Da Vinci Code was banned in Lebanon. For such a popular book it surprised me that it was banned. I was wondering what your thoughts about the governments decision to ban the book were? Was censorship or the Lebanese's beliefs considered when banning the book?
If you could e-mail me back if you have any answers at