Books Originally Censored (And One That Went the Other Way)

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When it was first published in 1951, James Jones’ classic World War II novel From Here to Eternity was heavily censored. Among the things removed were explicit mentions of gay sex and a number of four-letter words.  The author objected to the changes, but eventually acceded to his publisher’s wishes (he needed to eat). Now, as the book approaches its sixtieth anniversary, James’ heirs have arranged for a new, uncensored digital version of the novel.

To illustrate the impact of such censorship consider the fact that a book that the author intended to delve into subject of homosexuality became part of the pantheon of heterosexual male bravado. As Julie Bosman noted in the The New York Times piece that revealed this news, “the novel was turned into a classic movie with one of the most memorable heterosexual sex scenes of all time, a passionate romp on the beach starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr.”

One the eve of the new work’s publication (and in furtherance of authorial freedom everywhere), we present five other important books that have suffered at the hands of censors but which were eventually rescued by diligent editors.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Year Published:1962
What Was Censored: The entire 21st chapter, in which the main character (Alex) realizes that he was wrong to be so violent and vows to changes his ways, was removed from the American edition. (The publisher actually felt the original ending would be to cheerful and untrue to the rest of the story).
Year Uncensored Version Was Published: 1987 (by W.W. Norton & Company)

Recommended Reading

The First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Year Published: 1968
What Was Censored: The author cut nine full chapters in order to pass through Soviet censors.  Included in the cuts was a fictional call to the US Embassy to warn them of a Soviet attempt to procure nuclear bomb secrets, and the fact that the main character was Christian.
Year Uncensored Version Was Published: 2009 (by Harper Perennial)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Year Published: 1885
What Was Censored: In 2011 NewSouth Books published a much-maligned bowdlerized version of the classic American tale, replacing the word “nigger” with the word “slave” and removing the word “injun” completely.
Year Uncensored Version Was Published: 1895 (Versions of the original from various publishers are widely available at all booksellers and via both Google Books and Project Gutenberg).

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Year Published: 1906
What Was Censored:Vivid, gory descriptions of the meat packing industry; pointed social commentary; various aspects that gave the novel a certain “ethnic flavor”
Year Uncensored Version Was Published: 2003 (by See Sharp Press)

The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Year Published: 1891
What Was Censored:  Homosexual content; the word “mistress;” various elements that Wilde’s editors felt would be “immoral” to Victorian audiences
Year Uncensored Version Was Published: 2011 (by Harvard University Press)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.