WINSTON CHURCHILL AND BANNED BOOKS
To a bookseller especially nothing is more noxious than the banning of books. This past week has been Banned Books Week, a commemoration and a celebration of books banned from schools and libraries in this country. We didn’t want to let Banned Books Week go without sharing our adamant support for the banning of the word “Banned” where books are concerned.
“Those who think we can become richer or more stable as a country by stinting education and crippling the instruction of our young people are a most benighted class,” Winston Churchill insisted in 1925, in a slightly different context. Churchill, of course, recognized soon thereafter, as early as anyone, that Nazi censorship was the prelude to Nazi dictatorship.
The notion that we in America would ban books is as ugly and disconcerting as the idea that Germany, one of the world’s most historically cultured nations, could nurture Nazism. Banned Books Week was first observed in 1982 but 2022 has been an appallingly active year for book banning in America; unprecedented, really. The need to stand up to this intellectual oppression has never been more pressing.
The Nazis banned an astonishment of literary brilliance. Even a cursory list constitutes an assemblage of exceptional titles: All Quiet on the Western Front, Bambi, The Sun Also Rises, The Metamorphosis, The Time Machine, Death in Venice, Remembrance of Things Past. A comparable list of titles recently banned in the U.S is similarly, distressingly, stellar, including George Orwell’s 1984 (whose heroic protagonist is named — not by accident — Winston); Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (a work of prescience as horrific as 1984); both The Bluest Eye and Beloved, by our Nobel Prize-winning laureate Toni Morrison, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple; and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, a book that was, by inference, not especially kind to Winston Churchill and yet, we have little doubt he would have read, and wanted others to read.
We wish you liberated reading and a Shana Tova (Happy New Year).