Banning books has been going on for centuries —and it’s not unique to the United States, either. To shed light on worldwide censorship of literature in honor of last week’s Banned Books Week, Global English Editing, an online professional editing and proofreading service, put together a map of the world showcasing book censorship in some of the planet’s most prominent nations.
“Opposition to specific literature is nothing new, and censorship is nearly as old as writing itself,” a Global English Editing representative told PW. “Official censorship and the origins of the word censor can be traced back to the office of censor, established in Rome in 443 BCE. Here, and in other ancient societies such as China, it was considered a virtuous means to control and mold the character of the people. However, if you think the banning of books was restricted to bygone eras less civilized than today, think again.”
In response to the map, a number of publishers worldwide provided PW with a list of additional banned titles, spotlighting censorship worldwide.
Bangladesh: Naree by Humayun Azad
This Bengali feminist treatise on the role of women and their struggle for equal rights in civilizations run by men criticizes revered figures such as Rabindranath Tagore, among others. “The book was banned for five years after it was published in 1994, but then, after a court order, was released for publication five years later,” says Mitia Osman, publisher of Agamee Prakashani.
Brazil: Avengers: The Children’s Crusade by Allan Heinberg, illus. by Jim Cheung
Earlier this month, the mayor of Rio de Janiero tried to have this Marvel comic book removed from the city’s book fair, saying it was “objectionable to minors” because it featured an illustration of two protagonists—the superheroes Hulkling and Wiccan, who are boyfriends—kissing. Earlier, a city counsellor blamed the comic for “spread[ing] homosexuality to children.” As a result, booksellers sold out of the comic, and the national newspaper Folha de Sao Paolo subsequently put the image of the men kissing on its front page.
Cuba: Wet Foot Dry Foot by Pedro Ramirez Gonzalez
The book explains the process of escaping Cuba by boat—and the emotional toll that it takes on the migrants and those left behind. “The reason it is banned is self-explanatory,” says Heidi Heinzof the Guantanamera Literary Agency, which represents the author.
Egypt: The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel by Uri Bar-Joseph
In April 2018, Khalid Lutfi, owner of the Tanmia Bookshop and Publisher in Cairo, was arrested and sentenced to prison on charges of “distributing military secrets” related to his plans to publish The Angel. Lufti remains imprisoned to this day, and was just this year awarded the Prix Voltaire from the International Publishers Association.