Baiting the censor: 10 books they tried to suppress

Hilary Mantel’s short story The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher caused outrage with its recent publication in the Guardian, but it’s not the first and won’t be last piece of fiction to raise hackles

The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka

(1915) Gregor Samsa’s unusual transformation from human to giant bug didn’t go down well with the Fascists and was banned under Nazi and Soviet regimes. The book was also banned in the Czech author’s homeland for being written in German.

The House of GoldThe House of Gold

Liam O’Flaherty (1929) O’Flaherty’s novel was the first book banned in Ireland by the censorship board enacted by the Irish Free State. Expressing disillusionment over the post-war governing of the country and the power and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, its content was deemed “indecent”. The book was republished last year.

Brave new worldBrave New World

Aldous Huxley


(1932) Huxley’s parody of HG Wells’s utopian future in

Men of Gods

was banned in Ireland on publication. The controversy arose over the book’s storylines on child-bearing, reproductive technologies and psychological manipulation. The book was later banned in India and certain US states.

The Grapes of WrathThe Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck

(1939) Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning masterpiece was banned on publication in the US. Despite winning acclaim from critics and the literary elite, the American public were shocked at its depiction of poverty, avarice and survival in Depression-era California.

catcher in the ryeThe Catcher in the Rye

JD Salinger (1951) From 1961 to 1982,

The Catcher in the Rye

was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the US. Holden Caulfield’s profanity, sexual adventures and subversive musings caused controversy in 1950s conservative America when it was first published, and still frequently appears on lists of most challenged books in contemporary times.


Vladimir Nabokov

(1955) Middle-aged professor Humbert Humbert’s obsession and subsequent affair with the young heroine provoked huge controversy on publication and was banned in numerous countries including England and France. Twelve-year-old Dolores Haze becomes Lolita to her stepfather as the relationship intensifies.

The Country Girls Edna O'BrienThe Country Girls

Edna O’Brien (1960) Concerned with the sexual awakening of country girls Kate and Baba, Edna O’Brien’s debut novel was published in Ireland at a time where such salacious notions were repressed by State and Church. Banned by the authorities, the book was publicly burnt by O’Brien’s parish priest in County Clare, shaming her family.

Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut (1962) Soldier Billy Pilgrim's journeys through time see him captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. Housed in the titular slaughterhouse, Billy's fatalistic views on the human condition and its penchant for misery were banned by US authorities.

The Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie (1988) Arguably the most controversial novel of modern literature, Rushdie's fourth book resulted in a fatwa being placed on the author's head after conservative Muslims deemed it outrageously blasphemous.

American Psycho Brett Eaton Ellis (1991) The gruesome antics of serial killer Patrick Bateman in upper class New York society caused this book to be banned in various countries including Germany, who deemed it unsuitable for minors. Chainsaw, anyone?