A novel surrounded by myths and outrage, I waited a long time to read this particular banned book. Part one of an infamous trilogy, its author soon became the focus of official Ireland’s outrage machine. I will explore books 2 and 3 later on in the season but I was joined for book 1 by guest Dr Maureen O’Connor.
Cover art for this book today is heavily influenced by ‘Cabaret’ film and stage adaptations that grew out of this book. In the 1930s, Berlin was a byeword for transgressive excess, both sexual and political. This fine collection of stories inevitably attracted the censor’s ire.
When Seán O’Faoláin tried to do for Cork what Joyce had done for Dublin. He was disgusted when this love letter to his native city was banned and spent years agitating against censorship.
A guide to school life that was so radical the Pope declared it sacrilegious. For once, the Irish were not the only ones over-reacting to this tiny little book. It was 2014 before a full, uncensored version was published in Britain.
This short popular anthropology book made Margaret Mead into a prominent public intellectual. It’s full of radical ideas about family formation, gender roles and sexual expression. Written by a woman who believed in polygamy, it’s a wonder it took nearly 20 years for the Irish censors to ban it.
A bestseller in 1989, nobody took any offense at this slim novel by a prominent politician and solicitor until 2013. A silly, weird and revealing referral of ‘Laura’ the censorship board led to some interesting political gymnastics.
Errol Flynn was extremely hot in his day but you might not see his beautiful face in the same way after reading his memoir. A scandalous take on Golden Age Hollywood, it was too salacious for the Irish market.
A hilarious sketch on the novels of Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and DH Lawrence seems like an odd target for the censors. But the satire couldn’t cover up the contraceptive advice and sexual deviance.
James Joyce went way beyond smut when he wrote Ulysses, an epic modernist masterpiece. The censorship history of Ulysses is as mind boggling as the author’s bloody-minded determination to offend. In a bizarre twist, this filthy book was never banned in Ireland.
The scrutiny of the censor was confined to the English language. But works in Irish, the other language of the state, were also censored by editors, bureaucrats and catholic reactionaries. No language was allowed to explore scandalous ‘sex feelings’.