In our 21st century world - one where the president of the United States can tweet controversy to millions of people, and Fifty Shades of Grey tops the bestseller lists upon release, it’s easy to forget how many authors throughout history have struggled to tell their story, and indeed, in many parts of the world, that this is still a reality.  

Here are ten classic novels that have been banned around the world - and the sometimes surprising reasons why.



The Well of Loneliness

Whilst non-binary narratives like this one are becoming more and more welcomed, a hundred years ago The Well of Loneliness was labelled as a ‘contamination and corruption of English fiction’ for its portrayal of a young woman falling in love with another young woman. The legal battle to get Hall’s novel published increased the visibility of lesbian culture, but the book remained banned until after her death in 1943.

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Lolita

In Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov addresses one of the most taboo subjects of our era. The novel invites readers, very much against their will and without realising it, to sympathise with Humbert Humbert: a man obsessed with sexualising young girls. It’s no surprise that this book was banned upon publication in the 50s, but its literary potential was realised by an American professor shortly afterwards as he jumped through all the hoops to get this book on his class reading list.

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Brave New World

Presenting a stark vision of our future world - where babies are manufactured on conveyor belts, non-conformists are banished like zoo animals to ‘The Reservation’, and dosing up on chemicals is the norm - Huxley’s 1932 utopian-turned-dystopian novel evoked fear in many Americans, resulting in it being banned from many school syllabuses in the mid-twentieth century.

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Ulysses

When it was first published in 1922, Joyce’s masterpiece was considered a danger to the impressionable minds of young girls. Authorities feared Ulysses would corrupt them with passion and loose morals, which resulted in the novel being banned after one of the most famous trials in literary history.

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