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Jack Harte’s recent Sunday Miscellany piece and blogpost, Encountering John McGahern in the Censor’s Basement, inspired a lively conversation on Facebook. I was asked if I knew of any list online of books prohibited in Ireland, and I failed to find one.  So I have put together a select list, drawn from a number of sources, from the 1920s up to the 1960s.

The most complete list of Irish books banned that I know of is by Donal Ó Drisceoil, and is published as an appendix in Volume 5 of the Oxford History of the Irish Book. I have found no similar list of books from outside Ireland, so the lists below are a start.

Unlike banned books in the United States, where banning is usually limited to libraries and schools (it usually means that a book may not be found in a  library or may not be purchased by a school district), the Irish censorship laws prevent the importation, sale or distribution of prohibited publications.  The Censorship of Publications Act, 1929, was enacted to prohibit the sale and distribution of “unwholesome literature”.

A database of prohibited books, periodicals and films would be an interesting project.  Perhaps there is such a project on an international level?  If I find out more, I will add information to this page.

I have divided my list into books by Irish authors and books by other authors, followed by a bibliography.  If there were a database, people could search by many different facets, perhaps even by “reason for prohibition”.

This is a small selection of the thousands of books that have been prohibited by the Irish Government. The year in which a book was prohibited is listed with the author and title.  This is usually the same as the year of publication.

Books by Irish Authors

Samuel Beckett. More Pricks than Kicks. 1934.
Brendan Behan. Borstal Boy. 1958.
John Broderick. The Pilgrimage. 1961.
George Buchanan. Rose Forbes. 1950
Joyce Cary. A fearful joy. 1950
Joyce Cary. Castle Corner. 1938.
Joyce Cary. Charley is my Darling. 1940.
Joyce Cary. Herself Surprised. 1942.
Austin Clarke. The Bright Temptation. 1932.
Austin Clarke. The Singing Men at Cashel. 1936.
Rearden Conner. Hunger of the heart. 1950.
Eric Cross. The Tailor and Ansty. 1942.
J. P. Donleavy. The Ginger Man. 1955.
J. P. Donleavy. A Singular Man. 1964.
Lee Dunne. The Cabfather. 1976,
Lee Dunne. Paddy Maguire is dead.
Frank Harris. My life and loves. 1950
Norah Hoult. Selected Stories. 1946.
Norah Hoult. Coming from the Fair. 1937.
Nora Hoult. Augusta steps out. 1942.
Norah Hoult. Four Women Grow Up. 1940.
Benedict Kiely. Honey seems bitter 1952
Benedict Kiely. There was an ancient house. 1955
Benedict Kiely. In a harbour green. 1950.
Maura Laverty. Alone we embark. 1943
Maurice Leitch. Liberty Lad 1965
Maurice Leitch. Poor Lazarus. 1969
John McGahern. The Dark. 1965
Walter Macken. I am alone. 1950
Ethel Mannin. Julie. 1940.
Ethel Mannin. Ragged Banners. 1931.
Ethel Mannin. Red Rose. 1941.
Ethel Mannin. Rolling in the Dew. 1940.
Ethel Mannin. The Blossoming bough. 1943.
Ethel Mannin. Cactus. 1942.
Ethel Mannin. Captain Moonlight. 1943.
Ethel Mannin. Commonsense and Morality. 1942.
Ethel Mannin. Common-sense and the Child. 1942.
Ethel Mannin. Confessions and Impressions. 1930.
Brian Moore. Judith Hearne. 1955. Later banned under title The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne.
Brian Moore. The Feast of Lupercal 1957
Brian Moore. The luck of Ginger Coffey. 1960
Brian Moore. An answer from Limbo. 1962
George Moore. A Story-teller’s Holiday. 1933.
Edna O’Brien. The Country Girls. 1960
Edna O’Brien. The lonely girl. 1962
Edna O’Brien. Girl with the green eyes. 1964
Edna O’Brien. Girls in their married bliss. 1964
Edna O’Brien. August is a wicked month.(1965
Kate O’Brien. Mary Lavelle. 1936.
Kate O’Brien. Land of spices.
Sean O’Casey. I Knock at the Door. 1939.
Sean O’Casey. Pictures in the Hallway. 1942.
Sean O’Casey. Windfalls. 1934.
Frank O’Connor. Dutch Interior 1940.
Frank O’Connor. The common chord 1947
Frank O’Connor. Travellers’ Samples (1951)
Frank O’Connor’s translation of Brian Merriman’s The Midnight Court was banned 1946.
Frank O’Connor. Kings, Lords and Commons. 1961.
Sean O Faolain. Bird alone. 1936.
Sean O Faolain. Midsummer Night Madness. 1932.
Liam O’Flaherty. Hollywood Cemetery. 1937.
Liam O’Flaherty. The House of Gold. 1930.
Liam O’Flaherty. The Puritan. 1932.
Liam O’Flaherty. The Martyr. 1933.
Liam O’Flaherty. Shame the Devil. 1934.
Con O’Leary. A Hillside Man. 1933.
Oliver St. John Gogarty. Going Native. 1942.
George Bernard Shaw. The adventures of the Black Girls in her search for God. 1933.
Francis Stuart. Julie. 1939.
Francis Stuart. The flowering cross. 1950
Halliday Sutherland. The laws of life.
E. L. Voynich. The Gadfly. 1943.
Anthony West. On a dark night. 1950.

Books from the rest of the world

Sherwood Anderson. Horses and Men. 1931.
Pearl S. Buck. Dragon Seed. 1942.
Erskine Caldwell. American Earth. 1935
Erskine Caldwell. God’s Little Acre. 1934.
Erskine Caldwell. Tobacco Road. 1933.
Erskine Caldwell. We are the Living. 1934.
Barbara Cartland. First Class, Lady? 1937.
Colette. Cheri (all English versions). 1931.
A.J. Cronin. The Stars Look Down. 1935.
Simone de Beauvoir. A History of Sex. 1961.
Simone de Beauvoir. Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome. 1962.
John Dos Passos. The Forty-second Parallel. 1930.
John Dos Passos. Manhattan Transfer. 1934.
John Dos Passos. Nineteen Nineteen. 1932.
Theodore Dreiser. Dawn. 1931.
Daphne Du Maurier. I’ll Never be young again. 1942.
William Faulkner. As I lay dying. 1935
William Faulkner. The Hamlet. 1940.
William Faulkner. Pylon. 1935.
William Faulkner. Soldier’s Pay. 1931.
William Faulkner. The Wild Palms. 1939.
Rumer Godden. Breakfast with the Nikolides. 1942.
Maxim Gorki. Bystander. 1931.
Robert Graves. I, Claudius. 1936.
Graham Greene. Brighton Rock. 1939.
Graham Greene. Stamboul Train. 1938.
Joseph Heller. Catch 22. 1962.
Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. 1936.
Ernest Hemingway. Fiesta. 1941.
Ernest Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls. 1941.
Ernest Hemingway. To Have and Have Not. 1938.
Ernest Hemingway. The Essential Hemingway (incorporating Fiesta). 1958.
Hermann Hesse. Death and the Lover. 1933.
Aldous Huxley. Antic Hay. 1930
Aldous Huxley. Brave New World. 1932.
Aldous Huxley. Brief Candles. 1930.
Aldous Huxley. Eyeless in Gaza. 1936.
Christopher Isherwood. Goodbye to Berlin. 1939.
Sinclair Lewis. Ann Vickers. 1933.
Sinclair Lewis. Elmer Gantry. 1931.
Eric Linklater. The Crusader’s Key. 1938.
The Little Red Schoolbook. 1972.
Andre Malraux. Storm in Shanghai (La condition humaine). 1936 (all English versions)
W. Somerset Maugham. Cakes and Ale, or the Skeleton in the Cupboard. 1930.
Richard Llewellyn. How Green was my Valley. 1940.
W. Somerset Maugham. Theatre. 1937.
W. Somerset Maugham. Up at the Villa. 1941.
Marcel Proust. Remembrance of Things Past, vols. 9-12. 1943.
Ayn Rand. We, the Living. 1937.
Bertrand Russell. Marriage and Morals. 1930.
Mikhail Sholokhov. The Don Flows Home to the Sea. 1941.
Georges Simenon. Lost Moorings. 1958.
Stephen Spender. The burning cactus. 1936.
John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath. 1940.
John Steinbeck. To a God Unknown. 1935.
Marie Stopes. Contraception. 1930.
Marie Stopes. Marriage in my Time. 1935.
Hugh Walpole. The Blind Man’s House. 1942.
H. G. Wells. Babes in the Darkling Wood. 1941.
H. G. Wells. The Bulpington of Blup. 1933.
H. G. Wells. Phoenix. 1943.
Richard Wright. Uncle Tom’s Children. 1958.

Brief Bibliography on the Censorship of Books in Ireland

(Hesburgh Library classification numbers are included where possible.)

Adams, Michael.  Censorship: The Irish Experience. Alabama: University of Alabama Press/ Dublin: Scepter Books, 1968.  Z 657 .A3
A systematic account of censorship from the founding of the Free State in 1922, describing the political and bureaucratic development of censorship. Public opinion is treated with an account of some of the controversies. This is very well annotated, with many facts and figures from primary sources. Appendixes include the following lists:
A Selection of books prohibited 1930-1946; A selection of books prohibited during the years 1946-1966 inclusive.

Carlson, Julia. Banned in Ireland: Censorship and the Irish writer. Edited for Article 19 by Julia Carlson. London: Routledge, 1990. PR 8803 .B36 1990
Preface by Kevin Boyle, founding director of Article 19, the International Centre on Censorship.
Introduction by Julia Carlson gives an overview of the censorship of books in Ireland.
Interviews with Benedict Kiely, John Broderick, John McGahern, Edna O’Brien, Lee Dunne, Maurice Leitch and Brian Moore.
The appendix consists of the following essays on censorship: The Censorship Bill, by AE; The Censorship and St. Thomas Aquinas, by W. B. Yeats; The Censorship, by G. Bernard Shaw; The Irish Censorship, by Liam O’Flaherty; Censorship in the Saorstat, by Samuel Beckett; The Mart of Ideas, by Sean O’Faolain; Frank O’Connor on Censorship, by Frank O’Connor.

Carlson, Julia. ‘Christopher J. O’Reilly: Profile of an Irish censor.’ In O’Leary and Lazaro: Censorship across borders. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2011. Z 658 .E85 C467 2011

Hackett, Francis. 1936. “A muzzle made in Ireland.” Dublin Magazine (October-December): 8-17

Kelly, James.  “The operation of the Censorship of Publications Board: The notebooks of C. J. O’Reilly, 1951-55”. Analecta Hibernica 38 (2004): 223-369.

Martin, Peter. Censorship in the Two Irelands 1922-1939. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2006. P 96 .C42 I733 2006

Ó Drisceoil, Dónal. ‘The dark chapter: censorship and the Irish writer’. In Hutton and Walsh (ed.): The Irish Book in English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Z331.3 .I75 2011b
This book, volume five in the Oxford History of the Irish Book includes an appendix compiled by Dónal Ó Drisceoil which lists Irish books banned under the Censorship of Publications Acts, 1929-67.

Ó Drisceoil, Donal. “The best banned in the land”: Censorship and Irish writing since 1950. The yearbook of English studies 35: Irish Writing since 1950: 146-160 (Available on JSTOR)

Ó Drisceoil, Dónal. ‘Frank O’Connor and Irish literary censorship.’ In O’Leary and Lazaro: Censorship across borders. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2011. Z 658 .E85 C467 2011

Ryan, Brendan. Keeping us in the dark: Censorship and freedom of information in Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1995. Z 658 .I73 R936 1995
On secrecy in all areas of government and commerce, e.g. health, local government, pharmaceutical industry.

Ó Drisceoil, Donal. Censorship in Ireland, 1930-1945: neutrality, politics and society. Cork: Cork University Press, 1996. Z 658 .I73 O375 1996

Woodman, Kieran. 1985. Media control in Ireland. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.


Primary Sources

Newspapers (The Irish Times includes periodic lists of banned books).

Ireland: Department of Justice. Register of Prohibited Publications (As on the 31st December, 1943.) Dublin: Stationery Office, 1943.

Ireland: Department of Justice. Censorship of Publications Act, 1929. Website: Irish Statute Book, produced by the Office of the Attorney General. http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1929/en/act/pub/0021/print.html