Book burnings

It’s been 75 years since the infamous book burnings in Nazi Germany in 1933, which coincidentally forms part of the plot of this month’s Crafty Writer Book Club book. Books that were considered antagonistic towards Nazi philosophy were piled up in town squares and burnt in a frenzy of apparent public support for Nazism. Check out this BBC clip for original footage and modern-day reflections on the burnings.

philip-pullman-his-dark-materialsAnd while book burnings may not happen so publicly anymore in the West we still have censorship – if not by government decree, by public sentiment. I think, for example, of the move to have Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials removed from the syllabus of some Catholic schools in Austin, Texas.

I think too of the threat to remove Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People from South African school syllabi due to accusations of racism in 2001. The move is said to have devastated the now octogenerian anti-Apartheid activist who had the same book banned in 1981 by the white Apartheid government for opposite reasons!

Both of these examples reflect adults trying to protect children from what they consider to be one-sided and harmful philosophies. Is it wrong for a Christian school to object to a book that denies the existence of God? Is it wrong for an African school to object to an ‘outdated and patronising’ view of black people? Is it ever justified to ‘ban’ books? Can you think of any other recent ‘book burnings’? Join in the discussion by leaving your comments below.

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