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Two Damned Banned Books - Ulysses and Dr Zhivago

In March 1919, The Little Review was examined by the US Post Office Department who duly found an extract from a novel, in progress, called Ulysses in which Leopold Bloom recalled an afternoon with his girlfriend on Howth Head, Dublin. There was much kissing and caressing. The Post Office persisted and The Little Review of January 1920 was banned because Ulysses described Queen Victoria of England as ‘the flatulent old bitch that died.’ The March 1920 edition of The Little Review described Gerty MacDowell flashing her knickers on a beach. In October 1920, The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice took the editors of The Little Review to court and uttered the first public evaluation of James Joyce’s Ulysses a novel: ‘so obscene, lewd, filthy, indecent..’

Thus commenced one of the great battles of cultural history: the fight by Joyce’s small band of supporters to publish a 700 page novel modeled on Homer’s Odyssey and featuring obituary, cliché, girlish romance and monologue during the repression of both sides of the Atlantic.

The heroes were Harriet Shaw Weaver who serialised Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist; Margaret Anderson whose The Little Review was devoted to applied anarchism; agitator Ezra Pound and the persistent Wall Street lawyer John Quinn and Sylvia Beach who finally published Ulysses on Joyce’s 40th birthday February 2, 1922. Joyce was a pioneering martyr to the religion of literature.

An elderly Russian poet Boris Pasternak handed over his manuscript of Doctor Zhivago to the representative of a Milan publisher, May 20, 1958. Pasternak mentioned his execution would be a consequence. The novel tells the life story of poet physician Yuri Zhivago who witnessed the October Revolution the horrors of civil war and becomes disillusioned with Soviet ideology. Lara was modeled on his real love, Olga, who served 10 years in the Gulags as a consequence. Russia was revealed to be ruled by terror and unreason. Pasternak knew the book could not be published in Russia. The book became a bestseller in the West. Russia today is a Kleptocracy.

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