The link below is to an article that takes a look at the world of Westeros and the ‘canon’ of literature available to read concerning it.
The link below is to an article that serves as a guide to the world of the Divergent series (by Veronica Roth).
It’s exactly 80 years since the end of the Spanish Civil War, when General Francisco Franco’s populist forces finally overcame the leftist resistance and plunged the country into full-blown dictatorship. Decades after his death, Franco continues to cast a long shadow over Spain, from the rise of the far-right Vox party to the hundreds of mass graves of people who died in the war that are still waiting to be exhumed.
One other hugely important legacy that few people are aware of is the continuing effect on books, both in Spain and throughout the Spanish-speaking world. To this day, translations of many world classics and works of Spanish literature are being reprinted using expurgated texts approved by the dictator’s censors – often without publishers even realising it, let alone readers. It has had a chilling effect on freedom of speech over the years, and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Between 1936 and 1966, every single book published in Spain had to be submitted to a national board of censors for examination. The censors would decide whether the text should be banned altogether or was fit for publication, in which case they would stipulate any necessary changes. After 1966, when a new law that partly liberalised freedom of speech was introduced in the country, publishers could voluntarily decide whether to submit a text for censorship. However, the authorities still retained the ability to withdraw any book from circulation that they deemed unacceptable.
Franco’s censorship laws sought to reinforce Catholicism and promote ideological and cultural uniformity. The censors enforced conservative values, inhibited dissent and manipulated history, especially the memory of the civil war. Sexually explicit material was banned, as were alternative political views, improper language and criticisms of the Catholic church.
Spain abandoned these policies after Franco’s death in 1975, yet most of the same texts are still widely available today. Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby is available in more than 20 different Spanish-language editions, for instance, including an electronic one, all of which lack two extended passages that according to the censors glorified Satan. James Baldwin’s Go and Tell it on the Mountain is only available in a version with cuts that include references to birth control and details about the sex lives of the main characters. The publication of this expurgated text is sponsored by none other than UNESCO.
Many literary works by some of Spain’s most important 20th-century writers have suffered similar fates, including those by Ana María Matute, Camilo José Cela, Juan Marsé and Ignacio Aldecoa. In some cases, such as George Orwell’s Burmese Days and Ian Fleming’s Thunderball, censored parts have even survived in retranslated and restored versions.
With no one under the age of 40 even alive during the dictatorship years, few people are even aware of the problem. Public libraries are encouraging people to read thousands of volumes without realising they are censored. Many of these texts have been imported to Latin America, sometimes even being republished in different countries with their censored parts intact. It means that a fairly large proportion of the world’s population is being routinely denied access to literature as it was intended to appear.
Why censorship never ended
It is a well known fact that Spaniards have found it difficult to confront their traumatic recent history. The so-called “pact of forgetting”, a tacit decision among the Spanish political elites not to question or examine the past, was seen by many as vital to make the transition to democracy possible in the late 1970s and 1980s. For years, this included a general amnesia about Franco’s cultural policies: even when books were retranslated to restore censored parts, few people said anything about it.
Spain’s 2007 Law for the Recovery of the Historical Memory was a major step away from these years of forgetting. It condemned the dictatorship and established compensations for people who endured political violence during the regime. It also initiated the removal of statues and other public symbols which glorified Franco’s reign. Yet other cultural artefacts, such as books, were overlooked.
The upshot is that Spain’s literary censorship problem is alive and well today. Indeed, it is arguably getting worse: it is easy to release digital versions of these classics, so Franco’s hand even reaches into Kindles and tablets. We are talking about one of the most long-lasting yet invisible legacies of his regime. The effect on culture in Spain and in other hispanic countries is almost incalculable. Censorship has certainly distorted many people’s perception of the civil war and its consequences. Many readers will also be ignorant of writers’ real points of view regarding important social issues such as gender roles, birth control and homosexuality.
The question is how to deal with this complex problem – particularly now that the Vox party, which is expected to do well in the upcoming election, has promised to repeal the Law of Historical Memory on the grounds that it manipulates the past.
The most important task is to raise awareness among the reading public. This needs clear support from the Spanish government, plus serious engagement from the whole literary sector, including libraries, publishing houses, translators, archives, cultural publications and writers themselves. The technologies that are giving new life to the problem could be used to help: a public database of restored texts, for instance, could become an important tool.
The point is that while Spain has increasingly been addressing the impact of Franco’s regime in the country’s social and historical memory since the early 2000s, the process of coming to terms with the past is far from complete. The pact of forgetting has not only marred Spain’s democratic progress, it has severely damaged the country’s cultural heritage. Spain and the rest of the Spanish-speaking world will not be free from Franco’s censorial shadow until this issue is publicly and decisively addressed. With people on the ascendant who would prefer to turn back the clock, there is no time to lose.
The link below is to an article that looks at the top 100 books offered in libraries around the world.
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The link below is to an article and infographic that takes a look at the best books about love set in 100 countries around the world.
The link below is to an article and infographic looking at the world’s reading habits in 2018.
In this confusing and often conflicted world, children’s author Gillian Cross has summed up what it is about reading fiction that is so important: “Good stories help us make sense of the world. They invite us to discover what it’s like being someone completely different.”
As the author of a children’s novel myself, I’m going to double down on this and say that if this is important for adults, it’s 100 times more important for children.
Children passionately want to understand what’s going on – and fiction is a potent way for them to do this. A study by education professor Maria Nikolajeva found that “reading fiction provides an excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy and theory of mind, that is, understanding of how other people feel and think”.
In the wealth of recent fiction for children and young adults, here are ten powerful stories for young people, addressing some of the most important, and troubling, questions we face today.
1. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon (Orion)
Imagine being imprisoned for your whole life. Imagine growing up like Subhi.
The nine-year-old’s world ends at the diamond-shaped fence – the outer edge of the detention centre he is detained in with his Rohingya family in Australia.
Fraillon draws a vivid picture of life inside the fence – vulnerable people fleeing persecution, only to find – instead of the peace and sanctuary they so desperately need – indifference and hostility.
But Subhi finds hope in his friendship with an Australian girl from outside the fence. (Age: 11+)
2. The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew (Red Ink)
What if Germany had won World War II and the UK was now part of a Third German Reich? This is a coming-of-age story with a difference – 16-year-old Jessika is a talented ice-skater in a high-ranking REICH?family.
But her friendship with subversive, courageous and desirable Clem threatens everything: her family, her future, and her very life. This is a story that paints the dangers of totalitarianism in vivid language. (Age: 12+)
3. Boy 87 by Ele Fountain (Pushkin Press)
Fourteen-year-old Shif lives in a country that conscripts its children into the army. The country isn’t named, but may be in Africa. He wants to play chess with his best friend Bini and race him home from school. But the army comes calling and the two must flee.
Shif experiences at first hand the brutality of a totalitarian government, then the trauma of migration and trafficking. Despite this, the story manages to be hopeful. (Age: 12 +)
4. The Jungle by Pooja Puri (Ink Road)
Sixteen-year-old Mico is surviving his life in the Jungle refugee camp in Calais. Without anyone to look out for him, he must look out for himself, living on his wits and his luck. Using careful research, Puri shows us what life is like as a refugee, owning nothing, not even the clothes on your back or the blanket you sleep beneath.
She shows us the desperation and terrible lengths refugees will go to, to try to find a home. But when Mico meets Leila, we see, too, the hope – and the risk – that friendship brings. (Age: 12+)
5. After the Fire by Will Hill (Usborne)
Moonbeam has lost her mother and she only knows life inside The Fence – it’s a life controlled by cult leader Father John.
But one night a devastating fire burns that life to the ground – the buildings, the people, the leader are all gone and only Moonbeam and a handful of children survive. Moonbeam and the others must now discover the world beyond the fence.
Can she do this when Father John has told her to trust no one outside? Using the WACO siege as his source material, Hill explores the power of brainwashing and cult identity.
Moonbeam’s search is for a truth she can stand by now, and for the mother she thinks must be dead. (Age: 12+)
6. I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan (Macmillan)
Written in the voice of its smart and self-deprecating heroine, British Muslim Pakistani teenager Muzna, this is both a coming-of-age novel and a thriller. Muzna navigates her life at home and at school, working out how to have her own identity and her own ambitions, not those imposed by her parents, religion, school or friends.
And, as her relationship with Arif develops, the story becomes a thriller, and the stakes become very high. (Age: 13+)
7. The Territory trilogy by Sarah Govett (Firefly Press)
What happens when the sea levels rise? Govett imagines a flooded world with dwindling resources and not enough dry land for everyone. Choices have to be made, about who stays on the dry territory, and who is banished beyond the fence, to the dreaded Wetlands. But when 15-year-old Noa finds herself beyond the fence, she discovers that not everything the adults have been telling her is true. (Age: 13+)
8. Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias (Scholastic)
Following Britain’s withdrawal from Europe, a far-right Nationalist party has come to power.
Only those born in Britain (or BB as they are known) are allowed to live legally – everyone born outside the country is subject to immediate arrest and deportation and failing to report illegals is a crime.
Mathias has set her thriller in a British dystopia that is more scarily plausible than ever.
The young protagonist Zara is an illegal living in this scary new Britain – and falling in love with Ash might be the most dangerous thing she could do. (Age: 13+)
9. Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)
It’s ten years since Joe saw his brother Ed – and now Ed is on death row, facing execution for the murder of a police officer. What do they know of each other now? Ed says he’s innocent of the murder, but everyone else believes he’s guilty.
Crossan’s verse novel explores a single summer, perhaps Ed’s last, as 17-year-old Joe struggles to understand what has been done to his brother – and to himself. (Age: 13+)
10. The New Neighbours by Sarah McIntyre (David Fickling Books)
The only picture book in the list, McIntyre’s delightfully illustrated story explores how intolerance and scaremongering can run like a mad fever through a community. When new neighbours move in to the tower block, hysteria builds quickly, until finally the other animals discover the truth about their newest neighbours. (Age: 2+)
The link below is to an article that takes a look at some of the oldest libraries in the world.
The link below is to an article that looks at 10 of the most famous bookshops in the world.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at the history of book acquisition for the world’s libraries throughout history.