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Post Vatican's Index Librorum Prohibitorum
Created by John Eipper on 10/09/14 3:35 AM

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Vatican's Index Librorum Prohibitorum (John Heelan, UK, 10/09/14 3:35 am)

Patrick Mears's problem with getting access to Don Quixote (8 October) struck a chord with me. Coming from a strictly Roman Catholic family, in my mid-teens I recall one of my cousins--the local librarian--refusing to let me take out James Joyce's Ulysses because it was on the Vatican's Index of banned books. This set back my literary education for a couple of years. I wonder just how many literary careers were stymied or even quashed by this draconian attitude that was not discarded until 1966. The list of banned books by Enlightenment authors, philosophers and others can be seen at:


JE comments:  Already post-1966, I managed to check Ulysses out of the local library.  My problem was different:  no 14 year-old can understand it, and unfortunately the juicy parts are hard to find.

I notice the Index does not list Don Quixote.  Perhaps Pat Mears's teacher, Sister Mary Olympia, wanted to err on the side of caution.  This was the attitude of the priest and the barber when they went through DQ's library and burned most of it.

Speaking of literature, this year's Nobel Prize is going to be announced any minute now.

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  • Vatican's Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Roy Domenico, USA 10/09/14 11:29 AM)
    I was struck when I read John Heelan's post on the Catholic Index (9 October). That a librarian at a (public or a school?) library wouldn't let him see Ulysses bears out some of my own research.

    In my work on Catholic censorship in the 1950s and '60s, I've been looking into the Index and its history.  One conclusion becomes more and more apparent--it was an entirely slipshod and mismanaged affair. The institution bans a book in Italy ... so what, it's published in Italian by a Dutch firm. The entire works of an author are banned. Why? Because the priests were too lazy to read it all. You might find one zealous priest (or librarian) in one town and a totally lax attitude down the road. Be careful in attributing any monolithic rigor to the Index!

    JE comments: Excellent point. And in the Spanish New World, all books of "deleite" (amusement, meaning fiction in general) were banned. But does this mean people didn't read them? Haha.

    And congratulations, by the way, to Patrick Modiano (France), this year's Nobel Laureate in Literature.  Do I know Modiano's work?  Well, I hope someone in WAISworld does...
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