ESPOO’S ENTRESSE library and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (Ifla) have cooperated to create the world’s first video calendar of banned books. Ifla is participating in the initiative through its Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (Faife) international programme for intellectual freedom in libraries.
The initiative has earned widespread international attention, and is considered pioneering in many ways. Entresse produced a calendar last year of books that have been banned in Finland.
“The reception was so encouraging that we decided to take it to an international level,” says Faife chairman Kai Ekholm, who is also director and senior librarian of the National Library of Finland.
Leading figures in the literary world are participating in the initiative by presenting their own favourite banned books. The incoming president of Ifla, Sinikka Sipilä presents Mika Waltari’s homegrown classic Sinuhe Egyptiläinen (Sinuhe the Egyptian), and Ekholm himself presents Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Jill Cousins, the director of Europeana, an EU-funded online database of Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage, presents James Joyce’s Ulysses. Other international books presented in the series include Art Spiegelman’s illustrated Maus, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decamerone, and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck.
“We wanted to show that books have been censored and banned for centuries, and that these books have presented powerful challenges to many authorities: the Catholic Church’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum [List of Prohibited Books], the Puritans, the courts, and politicians,” Ekholm says. The general aim of the project is to awaken public discussion. “Each viewer of the online banned books calendar can make up his or her own mind on whether the banning of the work in question was justified.”
“In the past books were burned, but now the primary focus of censorship has turned to the internet. Grim reminders of this practice in Europe can be found in Turkey and Hungary, and further afield in China, for instance. There 450 million internet users are locked within an intranet system that is closed off from the rest of the world, and the rest of the internet when it comes to certain searches in Google, for example, and sites such as Facebook. Maybe next year we’ll do a Christmas calendar of banned websites.”
Each day, a new page of the Banned Books Calendar opens on various websites around the world, with a different work being presented each day. In Finland, the first page of the calendar can be opened on 1 December, and can be followed at www.kirjastokaista.fi/bannedbooks