Tag Archive: Voltaire

I am only just in time to post during Banned Books Week (which ends today) but I applaud this initiative against blinkered individuals and groups who have sought and still seek to dictate what people should be allowed to read.

Recent challenges to popular teen fiction titles like the Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight saga (for being sexually explicit and unsuited to the age group) indicate that this battle against bigotry and narrow-minded thinking is still raging.

What we are talking about here has nothing to do with simply outlawing books that are poorly written or manipulative (although they may include such titles).

According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts.

What often makes a book controversial is the fact that it challenges perceived norms and conventions. This is what makes them so valuable and so vulnerable.

There is no place for such censorship in any society that claims to stand for freedom of speech and to value democracy.

One of the key principles here can be summed up by the quote widely attributed to Voltaire: `I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.



After Kurt Cobain killed himself a woman wrote to the Guardian, irritated about how so called  ‘slackers’ were represented in the press.

She wrote : “ours is not a generation that won’t do anything. Ours is a generation that has trouble finding anything to do”.

It is 20 years since the album that summed up this state of mind was released. Nevermind is an album that forced to record industry to do a massive reappraisal of what ‘underground rock’ meant given that its massive success was on a par with the ‘overground'(mainstream).

Its iconic status, like that of Nirvana’s intense MTV Unplugged show was doubly assured by Cobain’s suicide. The nostalgia junkies are all over this of course but when I see photos or footage of Cobain, I wish we still had him around rather than this memorabilia.

I wish that Kurt had taken on board these words of Voltaire from ‘Candide’ : “I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most melancholy propensities; for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away? To loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away”

Related links:
In search of Nirvana – 20 years on (Guardian.Co:Uk)
Why we should let Kurt Cobain rest in peace by Simon Reynolds (Slate.Com)

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