“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov was published in 1955 and was sexually provocative for its time. The story revolves around the love affair between the protagonist, a middle-aged literature professor and hebephile, Humbert Humbert, and 12-year-old Dolores Haze. Humbert marries her mother in order to be closer to the young girl, and gradually he initiates a sexual relationship with Dolores. It was called the “filthiest book I have ever read” by the editor of the British newspaper Sunday Express and in 1955, the Home Office seized all copies of the books on the grounds that it was pornography. Interestingly, it was published in the U.S. without any issues.
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley was published in 1932. This novel is based in the future, specifically speaking 2540 A.D. in the City of London. Issues such as power of authority and the rights of man are heavily acknowledged throughout the novel. It focuses on one man’s fight for survival in a world where technology has begun to reign supreme, even in matters such as sexual reproduction and sleep. Ireland banned the book due to its controversial theme of childbirth and many parents in the U.S. tried to remove it from school classrooms due to the book’s blatant sexuality, suicide, and use of drugs.
“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis was published in 1991. The story is told in first person by protagonist Patrick Bateman, a serial killer and Manhattan businessman. Set during the Wall Street boom of the late 1980’s, Bateman narrates his everyday activities, from his recreational life among New York’s elite to his incursions into murder by nightfall. When it first came out, it garnered immense controversy for its graphic violence and sexual torture. The author even received death threats and hate mail. In Germany, the book was deemed “harmful to minors,” and its sales were restricted. It was banned in Canada until very recently, and it’s still banned in the Australian state of Queensland and is restricted to “over 18” in all other parts of Australia.
“Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell was published in 1949 and was written by Orwell when he was on his deathbed. The novel is heavily influenced by Orwell’s political views and is set in the dystopian society of Oceania, formerly known as Great Britain. The world is in perpetual war, under pervasive government surveillance, and subjected to mind control. This tyranny is dictated by Big Brother, a quasi-divine leader who may not even exist but is followed by the people without question. Shortly after it was translated into Russian, it was banned in the former U.S.S.R. It is still considered one of the most controversial books of all time due its themes of totalitarianism, torture, mind control, invasion of privacy, and any other negative thing in this world.
“Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut was published in 1969. The novel revolves around the story of Billy Pilgrim, a disoriented and ill-trained American soldier who is captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge and taken prisoner in Dresden. He is housed in a disused slaughterhouse known as “slaughterhouse number five.” During the bombings, the prisoners of war, including Pilgrim, and German guards hide in a deep cellar and are amongst some of the few survivors of the catastrophic firestorm. During this period of being captured, time begins to warp and Pilgrim starts to see visions of the future and the past, including his death. The book has been banned and/or censored, especially in school classrooms, many times since its release due to profanity, explicit sexual content and graphic violence. In 1972, a circuit judge banned it on the grounds that it is “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar and anti-Christian.”