Forty years ago Solidarity (Solidarność) was born in Poland. It became the first Soviet bloc’s independent self-governing trade union and the seat of Polish opposition during the 1980s.
The Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired a Solidarity ephemera collection (MSE/REE 0041) documenting a wide range of activities carried out by Solidarity leaders and supporters. The represented materials include samizdat (unofficial self-published and distributed) books, posters, broadsides, and handbills. For the most part, these were produced in response to specific events, often by hand on poor quality paper, and circulated in small quantities at great risk to their authors, distributors, and readers. The collection captures such inherent qualities of the Solidarity movement as spontaneity, commitment to democratic values, and sacrifices of the Polish people in their struggle for civic and political freedoms.
This popular samizdat comic book tells the story of the Solidarity’s first 500 days beginning with a peaceful strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk in August 1980 and ending with the tragic events of December 1981, when the Polish government declared Martial Law and arrested many of its leaders and supporters. The movement continued underground until the fall of the communist regime in 1989.
The authors claim that all dialogues in the book represent fragments of actual conversations and speeches. On page 8, the book features events from “difficult January 1981”. Included here is an image of Pope John Paul II, with words of encouragement and support to the Solidarity members, following his meeting with the Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa in Rome on January 15, 1981.
Photograph of the Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa (on the right) with two Solidarity Catholic priests, Father Jerzy Popiełuszko (in the middle) and Father Henryk Jankowski (on the left), November 1980.
This self-published booklet reproduces photographs by Adam Bujak, Stanisław Markowski, Andrzej Stawiarski, and Jerzy Szot depicting the funeral and protest marches following the murder of the Solidarity priest Father Jerzy Popiełuszko (1947-1984). He was kidnapped and savagely murdered by agents of the Polish Security Service, and has since been recognized a martyr by the Catholic Church. The booklet also reproduces Pope John Paul II’s words on the death of Fr. Popiełuszko.
This small hand-made handbill (7 x10 cm) features an image of the popular Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa with an anchor as a symbol of strength, and the word razem (“together”). 1980.
This small hand-made handbill (10 X 14 cm) is one of the earliest versions of the Solidarity logo with a national red and white Polish flag on the letter “N”, denoting “national” unity. Designed by artist Jerzy Janiszewski in August 1980, the Solidarity logo was quickly adopted by the movement members and sympathizers and used on banners, posters, handbills, and graffiti during demonstrations, strikes, and protests. The logo became a powerful symbol of the Solidarity movement. 1980.
These small samizdat handbills (7 x 10 cm) were published and distributed by Solidarity with calls for boycotting (“not to vote” in) communist elections. Elections in communist Poland were undemocratic and manipulated by the ruling totalitarian government. Circa 1980.
Our colleague Doug Archer, a longtime activist for intellectual freedom and a Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor awardee, has always used Banned Books Week as a time to raise awareness of threats to intellectual freedom. During this year’s Banned Books Week (September 27 to October 3), since Doug is enjoying his well-earned retirement, we decided to dive into our collections and identify books whose circulation has been impeded in different times and places.
In this post, you will find an assortment of examples that show various types of books and the ways that they have been withheld, by government or by church, nationally or locally, in various parts of the world.
This was the poster for our 2008 exhibit on the Index of Prohibited Books, curated by Benjamin Panciera (now Director of Special Collections and Archives at Connecticut College). The Freedom to Read and the Care of Souls: The Index of Prohibited Books since the Enlightenment examined how the Catholic Church sought to influence the circulation of ideas in the 19th and 20th centuries and what sort of material was considered dangerous.
The Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list compiled by the Catholic Church over a period of four centuries, consisted of a large number of books that lay Catholics were not permitted to read. Galileo’s Dialogo dei massimi sistemi [Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems] was added to the Index in 1634 and was not removed until 1822. In addition, Galileo was tried for heresy in 1633 and placed under house arrest, where he remained until his death almost a decade later.
One of the most famous pronouncements on censorship of a literary work, which occurred in the U.S., is that of Judge Woolsey on James Joyce’s Ulysses. This was widely reported in newspapers at the time.
James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” a novel which has been banned from the United States by custom censors on the ground that it might cause American readers to harbor “impure and lustful thoughts,” found a champion yesterday in the United States District Court.
Federal Judge John M. Woolsey, after devoting almost a month of his time to reading the book, ruled in an opinion which he filed in court that “Ulysses” not only was not obscene in a legal sense, but that it was a work of literary merit.
New York Times, December 7, 1933.
As we have seen in the case of Galileo (above), in various places and at various times in history, censorship has not only prevented people from access to certain books, but has sometimes punished, imprisoned, or publicly shamed their authors.
This rare book is an example of early Stalin propaganda. It became the first and only Stalin-era book that glorified the use of slave labor in the massive building projects of the 1930s. An estimated 170,000 prisoners worked in subhuman conditions on Belomorkanal, moving stones and digging the canal using their bare hands or primitive materials and technologies. Tens of thousands of inmates died during the twenty-one months of its construction (1931–33).
Commissioned by Stalin and published in Moscow in 1934 to coincide with the opening of the infamous XVII Party Congress, this book was presented as a souvenir to Congress delegates to celebrate the success of the First Soviet Industrial Five-Year Plan. Thirty-six Soviet writers and many leading artists, including the avant-garde photographer Aleksandr Rodchenko, visited the Canal and contributed their essays and photographic images of prisoners to praise the “transforming power” of the Gulag. By 1937, at the height of the Stalin Great Terror, the policy of “reeducating” class enemies through corrective labor was replaced by mass arrests, imprisonments and executions. The new policy called for the physical extermination of the “enemies of the people” and the obliteration of their names from the public record, including books. Four years after its publication, even this blatantly propagandist piece was found suspect and withdrawn from circulation; most copies were destroyed, and its many contributors were sent to the Gulag.
While many countries have not taken such extreme measures against authors, censorship has sometimes been carried out along with public shaming.
In Ireland, books that portrayed indecency or behavior that was not approved by the Catholic Church were often subject to censorship. A famous case was that of The Tailor and Ansty, Eric Cross’s book portraying the storytelling and commentary of a rural couple, Tadhg Ó Buachalla and his wife Anastasia, or Ansty. Not only was the book the subject of government debate over a four-day period, but the couple were visited by a priest (or three priests in some accounts) and ordered to burn their own copy of the book.
In the first decade of Ireland’s Free State, the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929, was enacted to prohibit the sale and distribution of “unwholesome literature”. Over the next forty years, hundreds of books were banned from sale in Ireland.
Ethel Voynich’s popular novel, The Gadfly, first published in the U.S. in 1897, was banned in Ireland in 1943. We had occasion to pull this book off the shelves as a Notre Dame student who is writing her senior thesis on this novel is particularly interested in why the book, popular elsewhere in Europe, was little known and also banned in Ireland.
Novels by Kate O’Brien were banned in Ireland and in Spain. The novel featured here, Land of Spices, was apparently banned in Ireland on account of one sentence in which the protagonist learns that her father was in a homosexual relationship. “She saw Etienne and her father in the embrace of love.” Thus the novel was deemed indecent and obscene.
Edna O’Brien, whose recent books include Girl (2019) and The Little Red Chairs (2016), is the author of novels that were very controversial in Ireland in the 1950s and ’60s. Her earliest novels, found offensive for their depiction of girls’ and women’s lives, including sexuality, were consistently banned by the Irish Censorship Board. O’Brien’s books circulated widely in spite of censorship, and the following account by Dónal Ó Drisceoil shows that the Irish Censorship Board was fighting a losing battle:
At a packed public meeting in Limerick in 1966, O’Brien asked for a show of hands as to how many had read her banned books: she was met with a sea of hands and much laughter.
Ó Drisceoil, 154
The censorship in Ireland of Frank O’Connor’s Kings, Lords, and Commons continues to provide amusement as the content that raised the censors’ concern was O’Connor’s translation of the acclaimed poem “Cúirt an Mheán Oíche” written in the eighteenth century by Brian Merriman. Much praised and valued as a literary work, the original Irish language text, and even earlier English translations, had never been censored, but this translation by O’Connor, conveying the humorous, hard-hitting language of sexually frustrated women, suggested that such lively discourse could exist in Irish-language literature, but not in English.
Once again, the Republic of Ireland is the place where this book by Hemingway was banned. This book and many others in our collection that could be freely read in the U.S. might not have been available to readers in Ireland and in other countries where such censorship was practiced. Examples of American books not allowed in Ireland for some time during the twentieth century include Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (banned 1933), Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos (banned 1934) and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (banned 1941).
Moving from national censorship to local censorship, the Hesburgh Libraries’ shelves are filled with books that have been censored in some way, either by being removed from the shelves of libraries, or being challenged and banned by local school boards. This is the kind of censorship that is generally of concern to the American Library Association, and that is highlighted during Banned Books Week.
Judy Blume, an author whose books have often been removed from school libraries, has become a spokesperson against the censorship of books. Her 1970 book, Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret, has a young protagonist who muses on, and discusses, sexuality, menstruation, bras, and religion. Reasons that the book has been challenged and sometimes removed from library shelves include the sexual content and the treatment of religion.
Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, has frequently been challenged, e.g. by parents asking school districts to have the book removed from library shelves. The combination of science and religion in the book, along with a kind of magic or fantasy, is at the root of many of the challenges. The American Library Association’ Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles annual lists of books based on reports they receive from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. For two decades, L’Engle’s novel was in the top one hundred challenged books.
More on the American Library Association’s findings on the books challenged throughout America may be learned by checking the Banned Books Week website.
Ó Drisceoil, Dónal. ‘The Best Banned in the Land: Censorship and Irish Writing since 1950’, in The Yearbook of English Studies 35 (2005), pp. 146-160. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3509330
Friday, November 9 at 3:00pm | Operation Frankenstein: “Melodramatic Frankenstein: Radical Content in a Reactionary Form” by Jeff Cox (University of Colorado Boulder). Co-sponsored by the Department of English and the Indiana Humanities Council.
Tuesday, November 13 at 3:00pm | Workshop: Archival Skills.CANCELED
Thursday, November 15 at 4:30pm | Iberian & Latin American Studies: “Language and Power: Searching for the Origins of Catalan Linguistic Identity” by Vicente Lledó-Guillem (Hofstra University). Co-sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Medieval Institute, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures.
Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:
Friday, October 12 at 3:00pm | Frankenstein and Medical Ethics: A Panel with Faculty from Notre Dame and Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend (IUSM-SB).
• Mark Fox, MD PhD MPH (IUSM-SB), Modern Day Re-animation: Revisiting the Moral History of Transplantation
• Joseph Kotva, PhD (IUSM-SB), Frankenstein and an Ethics of Virtue
• Gary Fromm, MD (IUSM-SB), Frankenstein, Film, and Medical Education
• Kathleen Eggleson, PhD (IUSM-SB), Teaching Frankenstein Today: The Moral Imperative to Reform the Education of Medical Scientists
• Chair, Eileen Hunt Botting, Professor of Political Science (Notre Dame)
This event is part of Operation Frankenstein, a semester-long series of interdisciplinary events taking place at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s novel.
Tuesday, October 23 at 4:00pm | Public Lecture: “La primera entrada al Río de la Plata: Maldonado y su historia” / “The First Entry to the Rio de la Plata: Maldonado and Its History” by Silvia Guerra (Uruguayan poet and scholar).
Wednesday, October 24 at 4:00pm |Un mar en madrugada / A Sea at Dawn: Bilingual Reading by Silvia Guerra and Jesse Lee Kercheval.
Wednesday, November 7 at 3:30pm | Black Catholic History Month public lecture by Fr. Clarence Williams, CPPS, Ph.D. Co-sponsored by the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism and Hesburgh Libraries/University Archives
Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:
Wednesday, August 22 at 3:00pm | “The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia.” A public talk by Jeff Peachey (Independent Book Conservator, New York City). The conservation treatment of the Hesburgh Libraries’ important copy of Dante’s La Commedia (Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1477) will be detailed in this profusely illustrated lecture. Bibliophiles, conservators, librarians, Italian scholars, and anyone curious about the physical structure of books will find this lecture of interest.
Friday, September 7 at 1:00pm | Operation Frankenstein: “Illustrated Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition” by David Plunkert (artist and illustrator for The New Yorker). Operation Frankenstein is a semester-long series of interdisciplinary events taking place at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s novel.
The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, continues to be on display through December 15, 2017. Public tours of the exhibit are offered Tuesdays at noon and Wednesdays at 3pm, and are also available by request for classes or other groups, including K-12 audiences. If you are planning to bring a group to Special Collections or would like to schedule a special tour, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.
The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, has been extended through October. The fall spotlight exhibit, opening in November, will feature highlights from the department’s collection of approximately 400 pieces of baseball related sheet music.
Lissitzky utilized contemporaneous state-of-the-art typographical and book design techniques to create and to glorify the official image of the new Soviet state by incorporating photomontage, overlays, peek-a-boo images, photo-collages, accordion foldouts, as well as colorful maps and graphs.
Lissitzky and his team were highly praised for the work, which underscored the triumph of the first five-year plan and the transformation of the old economy into the new industrial Soviet power led by Joseph Stalin.
The Evgeniia Ginzburg and Antonina Axenova Collection is now open to students and researchers. The collection consists of several parts. The most important part revolves around Evgeniia Ginzburg (1904-1977), who spent 18 years in the Stalin GULAG and who chronicled those years in her memoir translated into English as: Journey into the Whirlwind and Within the Whirlwind. Ginzburg’s classic work is one of the earliest revelations of the Stalin camps and remains one of the most significant. The collection contains arrest documents, letters, some manuscript material, and many original photographs.
Another part of the collection revolves around Antonina Axenova, who was born in the Kolyma camps and who was adopted by Ginzburg in 1949. Axenova became a film and stage actress, and the archive includes her documents, letters, photographs, scripts, programs, playbills, broadsides, and advertisements. Beisdes her career Axenova has also dedicated herself to preserving the legacy of her mother. She visited former KGB archives, made several trips back to the sites of the camps in the Kolyma region, and gathered together all of the material in the archive.
For a description of the collection’s over 700 items, see the finding aid. The collection also includes almost 100 books from the libraries of Ginzburg and Axenova. These books have been cataloged and can be located through the online catalog.