Monday, 29 September 2008

Philip Pullman pleased with attempts to censor his work

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Bestselling children's author Philip Pullman has expressed his delight at the fact that his novel Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass in the US) was the fourth most challenged title in the US in 2007, according to the American Library Association.

The Association received over 420 formal complaints about the novel, which challenged it over its "religious viewpoint". The complaints coincided with the religious outrage over the film adaptation of The Golden Compass, which involved the American Catholic League mounting a campaign against the film and calling for a boycott. They even produced a 31 page document entitled "The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked", designed to persuade Christian parents not to allow their children to see the film.

Writing for the Guardian, Pullman describes his delight at hearing of the high number of challenges to his work, many of which were made in the hope of having his books removed from public libraries:
"My immediate and ignoble response was glee. Firstly, I had obviously annoyed a lot of censorious people, and secondly, any ban would provoke interested readers to move from the library, where they couldn't get hold of my novel, to the bookshops, where they could ... Because they never learn. The inevitable result of trying to ban something – book, film, play, pop song, whatever – is that far more people want to get hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone. Why don't the censors realise this?"
He then goes on to explain how the tendency to censor art is one of the reasons for his dislike of organised religion:
"In fact, when it comes to banning books, religion is the worst reason of the lot. Religion, uncontaminated by power, can be the source of a great deal of private solace, artistic inspiration, and moral wisdom. But when it gets its hands on the levers of political or social authority, it goes rotten very quickly indeed. The rank stench of oppression wafts from every authoritarian church, chapel, temple, mosque, or synagogue – from every place of worship where the priests have the power to meddle in the social and intellectual lives of their flocks, from every presidential palace or prime ministerial office where civil leaders have to pander to religious ones. My basic objection to religion is not that it isn't true; I like plenty of things that aren't true. It's that religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good."
No doubt there will be more fuss when the second and third parts in the His Dark Materials trilogy are made into films in the coming year. But if the would-be censors really dislike his work so much, they ought to think twice before they whip up another controversy and inadvertently send a large chunk of extra cash his way.


Anonymous said...

Oh Philip Pullman I love your work and agree with everything you say! I have shared your books with my 8 year old son, they are deep passionate and thought provoking. I had a very bad experience of organized religion as a child, we are talking serious child abuse!!!
I know how the church works and I know how they cover up these crimes. We need more free thinking people like yourself. Thank you so much you are brilliant. X