Thursday, September 30, 2010

Banned Books in Mao's China

Growing up in Mao's China, I read very few books with literary values when I was a kid, except for certain books stamped as "For Denouncing Purpose Only" my father was able to keep due to his work in Culture Bureau of the province.

I remembered he read Pushkin to me, in Chinese translation, not the Russian he was also fluent at, since I knew no such language and had declined my dad's offer to teach me Russian. How stupid I was!

Back to the books, I remembered also an old copy of "The Sorrow of Young Werther" but I never dared to touch it because the morbidity associated with it. 

When I was in middle school, that country had finally opened up and I started to read more literature written by Tolstoy, Balzac, Chekhov and Shakespeare.

China still has banned books, either due to political reason or if the books were deemed pornographic.

When I was in college, Danielle Steel's Family Album was included in banned pornographic books. At the same time, I read a Chinese translation of 1984 borrowed from my university library.  Apparently, Chinese authorities believed that the Big Brother applied to the Soviet Union only.

I also want to expand a little of this discussion.  When I was again in college, the student union wanted to play video of Gone With The Wind to celebrate International Women's Day.  Somehow, our nervous university authority heard of the plan and persuaded or ordered the union to change the plan.  Instead, we were treated with glorious The Blue Lagoon, with scantly-clad Brook Shields and all.

Music and songs were often capriciously manhandled as well.  In the 1970s, before and after a movie, audience had to stand up and sing The East Is Red a song compared Mao Zedong to the sun, and Internationale, a famous socialist, communist, social-democratic and anarchist anthem.  How time has changed.  Internationale has been more or less banned now in the People's Republic of China.

My rumination proves that banning ideas and speeches is as foolish as it is irrational.

Devils' Dance / 魔鬼的舞蹈 / Teufels Tanz
Devils' Dance © Matthew Felix Sun

Devastating Novel "The Land of Green Plums" by Herta Müller
Ashamed of Oneself - Reading Book "Never Let Me Go"
- Molotov's Magic Lantern: A Journey In Russian Histoy by Rachel Polonsky and Some Journeys of My Own
- David Malouf's Ransom
- Review of "As Above, So Below" by Rudy Von B. Rucker

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