Monthly Archives: February 2015

Freedom to Read Week

Showing up a bit late to the party, as tomorrow is officially the last day of Freedom to Read Week, but better late than never!

Freedom to Read week is an annual event in Canada, a week-long celebration of the intellectual freedoms granted us under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The spotlight tends to be on books which, at some point in history, were viewed as unfit for public consumption. These books were banned due to their content: profanity, sex, general immorality, or even just political or religious unorthodoxy. Some of the titles that surface as having been banned in Canada and elsewhere (and not even that long ago) are surprising to modern readers.

The book we chose to focus on for Freedom to Read week is our second printing, first edition copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses (rebound).

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This influential novel has been widely acclaimed as a symbol of modernist literature, and also heavily derided as unreadable–sometimes in the same breath. First serialized from 1914-1921, and then published in 1922, Ulysses¬†was banned in UK until the 1930s. The book’s sexual content caused it to be challenged and briefly banned in the United States until 1933, when the ban was overturned in court, making the United States the first English-speaking country where Joyce’s book was openly available. Ulysses was also banned in Australia from 1929 to 1937, and then restricted to people over the age of 18 from 1941 to 1953 due to its sexual and immoral content. [1]

Despite its tumultuous history (or perhaps in line with its tumultuous history), Ulysses is very much a work reflective of its time. The text is widely known, making cameo appearances in post-secondary English classes across the country. For the literary minded, it is difficult to imagine a world without Ulysses. The book has been a source of artistic inspiration to many, with numerous adaptations being made in a variety of medium. It is also a book that has frustrated thousands with its dense, experimental stream-of-consciousness prose.

The original owner of our copy appears to have fallen into this latter category, having written this inscription on the inner front page:

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“Absolutely rotten book – vulgar, profane, and thoroughly bad”

And that is the beauty of Freedom to Read week — it reminds us that we live in a country where, happily, we are all free to read, form and express our own opinions, whatever they may be,

To learn more about Freedom to Read Week, visit their website at : http://www.freedomtoread.ca/freedom-to-read-week/#.VPDYcSjOtI4