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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Forbidden Fruit and the Banned Book by Orlando Bartro

The forbidden not only lured Eve to snatch a fruit, but lures a modern Chinese reader to search for the banned books of Jean Genet on the internet.

How did our Chinese reader hear of Jean Genet, a French beggar and book thief?

Is he lured by Genet’s luminous, mid-twentieth century writing?—probably not.

Does he share Genet’s sexual fixation on homosexual murderers?—Doubtful.

The lure is simple.

The thought is this: “His books have been banned; therefore, I want them.”

The best way to advertise a book is to ban it. 

The ban inspires curiosity.

James Joyce was unknown until Ulysses was confiscated at the American border.

Flaubert became known because he was prosecuted for writing Madame Bovary.

A banned book acquires a powerful allure.

Banning often publicizes a book, instead of burying it.

Instead of banning books, the ancient Chinese destroyed them, a far more effective solution for extirpating ideas that threaten or annoy the powerful.

As Sima Qian reports in his Records of the Grand Historian:

Killing the Scholars and Banning the Books, 18th century Chinese painting (public domain)

Killing the Scholars and Banning the Books, 18th century Chinese painting (public domain)

"If anyone under heaven has copies of the classics of poetry, the classics of history, or the writings of the hundred schools of philosophy, they shall deliver the books to the commandant for burning. Anyone who dares to discuss the classics of poetry or the classics of history shall be publicly executed. Anyone who uses history to criticize the present shall have his family executed.”

As a result, almost no history of China is known before 213 BC.

What is the lesson for tyrants?

When banning a book doesn’t work, burn it!

* Orlando Bartro is the author of Toward Two Words, a novel about men-women relationships, available at Amazon. He is currently writing two new novels and a play.  You can hear more of his insights into fiction at the Grassy Elbow at YouTube.


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