12 Nobel Laureates in Literature who have been Banned, Censored, or Exiled in the Past 20 Years

by Molly Burkett    /  November 1, 2011  / 3 Comments

Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace prize, has been in prison since 2009. Liu is the only Nobel Laureate, in all disciplines, who still remains in prison.

However, Liu has not been the only Nobel Laureate to face harassment and persecution for the written word. In the past 20 years, 12 of the 21 Nobel Literature Prize winners have been imprisoned, exiled from their home country, or written books that were later banned. Several works by American novelist Toni Morrison appear on the banned books list. Mario Vargas Llosa and Orhan Pamuk both experienced a public burning of their books, and Gao Xingjian burned copies of his own manuscript to avoid punishment. Three of the 12 censored writers were either banned textually or physically barred from South Africa. The writers on this list were often oppressed by government parties for their politically driven opinions.

Sampsonia Way presents a list of persecuted Nobel Literature Prize Winners from the past 20 years with links to excerpts of their work.

2010: Mario Vargas Llosa
Peruvian, journalist, essayist, and novelist. Vargas Llosa‘s novel The Time of the Hero was publicly burned in Peru by military personnel during the dictatorship in the 1960s, but no official ban on the book was ever set.

Read an excerpt from Vargas Llosa’s novel The Feast of the Goat


2009: Herta Müller
Romania-born, German short storyist, novelist, and poet. In 1982, under the strict dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu, a censored version of Herta Müller‘s first collection of short stories, Niederungen, was published in Romania. In 1984, an uncensored version was released by a German publisher. Because she was critical of the dictatorship in her writing, she was banned from publishing any works in her home country. Müller moved to Germany in 1987.

Read translations of Müller’s poems

Read an excerpt from The Appointment


2007: Doris Lessing

British novelist, moved to Africa as a child. Doris Lessing wrote out against the apartheid movement and subsequently, her books were banned in South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). She was barred from entering Southern Rhodesia in 1956, but was allowed to return in 1980.

Read an excerpt from Lessing’s 1979 novel Shikasta


2006: Orhan Pamuk
Turkish novelist. Pamuk’s works, Snow, The New Life, The Black Book, and My Name is Red have been burned in Turkey. Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted in early 2005 for a statement he made to a Swiss publication, Das Magazin, for which he was accused of having “insulted Turkishness.” He was charged with public denigration of Turkish identity. The charges for a three-year prison sentence were later dropped, but copies of his books were burned publicly and he was ordered to pay grievances to six offended people in 2011.

Read an excerpt from Pamuk’s novel Snow


2003: J.M Coetzee
South African novelist. Coetzee expresses anti-apartheid opinions in his novels, and wrote despite censorship by the Nationalist Party in South Africa. In 1977, In the Heart of the Country was released only because the censors, academic colleagues of Coetzee, decided that its success depended solely on the intelligence of its audience. Some of his works, including In the Heart of the Country are banned there due to political repercussions of the apartheid movement.

Read an excerpt of Coetzee’s novel In the Heart of the Country


2002: Imre Kertész
Hungarian novelist. Kertész‘s first novel, Sorstalansag (Fatelessness), released in 1975, was censored in accordance with the principles of Hungarian nationalism instituted by the country’s socialist leader János Kádár. Kertész moved to Germany in the 1980s and currently resides in Berlin.

Read an excerpt from Kertész’s The Union Jack


2000: Gao Xingjian
Chinese novelist, essayist, and short storyist. Gao exiled himself to France in 1987 and has since received his French citizenship. In the 60s, he burned the manuscript of his unpublished book, Soul Mountain, to avoid punishment, and worked for five years in a forced labor camp during the Cultural Revolution.

Read an excerpt from Gao’s Soul Mountain


1998: José Saramago
Portuguese novelist, playwright, journalist, and poet. In 1991, government officials in Portugal banned Saramago‘s book, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, which received criticism for re-telling the life of Jesus in a way that wasn’t congruent with that of the Bible.

Read an excerpt from Saramago’s Small Memories


1997: Dario Fo
Italian playwright. Fo and his wife were both banned from Italian RAI state television for 15 years in 1962 for writing and directing a controversial game show that angered Italian mafia members and politicians.

Read Fo’s censored play Accidental Death of an Anarchist



1996: Wisława Szymborska
Polish poet and essayist. Wisława Szymborska‘s works were subjected to Communist Censorship in 1948. She was not allowed to publish until after the restrictions dissipated in 1952.

Read Szymborska’s poem “Under One Small Star”


1993: Toni Morrison
American novelist. Morrison’s works The Bluest Eye (1970), Song of Solomon (1977), and Beloved (1997) have appeared on the American banned books list for depicting the violent and disturbing history of slavery, racism, and sexuality.

Read an excerpt of Morrison’s A Mercy


1991: Nadine Gordimer
South African writer. Nadine Gordimer has had three books banned by the South African government because of her anti-apartheid opinions. In 1966, The Late Bourgeois World was banned. In 1979, Burger’s Daughter, which dealt directly with South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement, was also banned for moral, religious, and political reasons. Burger’s Daughter also contained text from several banned or censored texts, including Black Liberation pamphlets.

Read Gordimer’s essay The Essential Gesture

About the Author

View all articles by Molly Burkett

3 Comments on "12 Nobel Laureates in Literature who have been Banned, Censored, or Exiled in the Past 20 Years"

  1. Madhav October 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm ·

    Came to know about this site thru shelfari discussion on banned Nobel Laureates initiated by BookBum.

    Request expansion of the banned list to include all Literature Nobel Laureates since inception.

  2. joe October 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm ·

    i found this website to be veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery helpful

    not.

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