The Forbidden Library

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What do you do when you find something offensive? Whether it be a book, a film or any other art form? You ask for a ban. You not only ban the book, perhaps want to ban the creator of the said object, including all their other work. We will explore Let us look at the dictionary meaning of ban:

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Over the centuries, the powers to be, have banned books and other materials or ideas which they found offensive. But the idea for bans is not always from the state. Grieved individuals often take upon themselves to argue for a ban on a given book or other material. But why would anyone want to ban anything? There seem to be two major reasons, both ideological for this. Both of them involve cultural and societal values.

Every society has some agreed upon norms about behaviour in public, interactions between individuals and things which are considered “normal”. Now, if you look at different cultures, it does take a genius to see those different cultures have different norms. If you look at the same culture historically, you will see that norms change with time. What was blasphemous in the last generation is acceptable now. For example, in the Indian context consider inter-caste marriages. It would be almost impossible to think of it (especially if the female is from the higher caste) in our grandfather’s generation. Manusmriti has

In an earlier post, I had discussed the absurdity of television censorship. The main reason seems to be that in the case of television the continuous flow of images with sound creates a sense of participation for the viewers, whereas they are just consuming. The attention span of the viewers on the television is the most treasured commodity. To keep the viewers glued to the screen, the content creators use a variety of means. The spectacle is out there. Feeding the viewers, satiating their bored lives showing them things that they will never ever get. Playboy and National Geographic are essentially same, they show you things that you are never going to see by yourselves. They create a reality away from reality in which the viewer is lured in and then stuck in a quagmire. In this state, the opinions can be changed, altered as per the desires of the creators.

This thematic idea is captured very well in this couplet by Piyush Mishra in a song from Gulaal.

जैसे हर एक बात पे डिमॉक्रेसी में लगने लग गयो बैन

Just like in democracy there is a ban for everything in democracy.

The banning of books or that of materials which the state or a group of people seem inappropriate is perhaps the easiest way to

https://web.archive.org/web/20090413002834/http://title.forbiddenlibrary.com/

On the same theme, some of the stand-up comedians in India have expressed their opinions in this video I am Offended.  It is a good watch, particularly the intolerant times in which we are. This video, I think points to many of the issues that we have considered here particularly in the current social Indian context.

Two works resonate the idea of censorship and banning of books very well. They are Nineteen Eighty-Four and Fahrenheit 451. In both these works, the core idea is the control of ideas, information and knowledge. So much so that the language to be used by the people is restricted. Certain words are removed from public memory by force. Any use of these words is akin to treason. Nineteen Eighty-Four has Thought Police, who control and report what is said. Even saying  thinking about something taboo is a crime.  We can see a certain trend in the contemporary Indian context. This MO has been effectively used to discredit dissent. Using in the age of connected computers this becomes even easier. It is easy to target people sitting in the comfort of your bed, in a sustained and meticulously planned manner. The so-called Keyboard Warriors are now being employed for making life hell for dissenting people. Anything goes.

Seemingly normal works of literature can be banned by using various contexts at different times and places. Just have a look at the list of books banned by governments across the globe. You will see many familiar titles there, and some of the reasons for their ban are even more bizzare. In the Indian context, history is highly coloured. The general public seems to consider historical fiction works as the history. I am a bit acquainted with Maratha history and seeing it being portrayed in a highly problematic manner in many of the popular titles makes me cringe. Yet, these titles remain on the best seller list. People reading these take them to be the de facto history without any need for evidence to the events depicted in these. When challenged about historical facts they cite these works of fiction as if they are some well researched historical documents supported by evidence. One can imagine what kind of conceptual edifice one will create with such misconceived notions about the past.

Alan Moore has interesting views on being a writer:  Words are magic, they can change and transform things. If we think about this, this indeed is the case. Ideas in the form of words do dictate our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. Ideologies in the form of literature does control our life. So, a writer can write against what is popularly accepted. There are writers who are conformists, and there are writers who will swim against the flow. And it is the later ones who will find their work on the banned list more often than nought. Ideas and words are far more dangerous than mere physical humans. Writing in this era of perpetual ephemeral nature of electronic media makes this case even stronger. Entire works of a particular theme can be removed in a blink of an eye. Electronic media though makes it easy for the authors to publish and disseminate their work, it can also be controlled and removed as easily as with a simple click. Force and intimidation are used when direct banning is not possible. Don’t feed the trolls. When such a thing becomes the norm, we start to self-censor, the worst form of censoring. Because the moment you start to nip the thoughts in the bud, your entity changes.

It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:

George Orwell categorises the intentions for writing into these four

  • Sheer egoism: 
  • Aesthetic enthusiasm:

  • Historical impulse:

  • Political purpose:

The last of these he expands

Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

This is where authors who usually end up on the list of banned work find themselves. Perhaps the world-view that the author subscribes to is something against the incumbent and the inherent traditions of a given milieu. Whatever the reasons, mere words can make those in power feel threatened or humiliated. So it indeed the case that words do have magic, if it was not so we would not have works being banned at mere thought.

 

Kabuki

Kabuki is a comic series from artist and writer David Mack. It is about an assassin who struggles with her identity in near future Japan.

Kabuki is one of the 8 eight assassin in the Noh, a secret Government agency which balances the power in Japan’s underworld.
As far as the storyline is concerned one can trace a lot of influences on the art and the characters of the story [at least the ones I am familiar with]. Not to mention the industrial style that we see in Blade Runner.

The first Volume Circle of Blood tell us about the origins of Kabuki. The art form in this Volume is black and white. Some of the other volumes are in color. In this volume there is a strong influence from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland.Especially in the Issue where Kai is killed by Kabuki the entire setup of the Mad Hatter’s tea party has been taken. When Kai takes Kabuki to visit his collections, the book that she picks up is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The passage she reads is this :

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

And I think I can relate very well to the quote of Kai on books [who has a formidable collection], when he compares the paper books with those that are digital :

But I love the intimacy of books. I love the physical act of turning
the pages and the tactile sensations of fine rice paper contrasting
with an embossed hardcover in my hand.

Influence from Carroll can also be found in other as pack of cards.

We are only faces, yet we are faceless… nothing but a pack of cards
in wonderland.

And in case of Kabuki when she says

I am a reflection, trapped in the world of a little girl.

It seems that David Mack has a fascination for M. C. Escher like I do. There are many influences of Escher in the later Volumes of Kabuki and especially in Metamorphosis. Incidentally metamorphosis is the theme in numerous Escher’s drawings, in which one thing transforms into another. Similarly in all the Metamorphosis issues the theme is of transformation. Also one of the characters is named M. C. Square which I think is a sort of tribute to Escher.
Also there is one quote in Skin Deep # 1 from Escher, which is quoted below.

The crossing of the divide between abstract and concrete,
representations between `mute’ and `speaking’ figures leads us to the
heart of what fascinated me. – M. C. Escher

In the later Volumes when Kabuki is in the reformation center, one cannot but help to think that there is an influence of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and thus indirectly of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. Somehow I a find myself bumping into Orwell every now and then, is there a deep connection, or is this theory ladenness of data on my part?  Particularly the character of Akemi the way she builds up the morale of Kabuki has very strong resemblance in which ‘V’ builds up Evey’s mental state

 If it can be taken from you, it was never you to begin with.
After they take away all they can what remains is you.
Only in these situations, we truly know who we are.

The passing of notes on Origami constructions of different animals also reminds us of the same modus operandi in case of Evey’s build up by the Actress in V for Vendetta.

Though the masks form an integral part of the style of the Kabuki dancers in Japan, the kind of attachment that our lead female Kabuki has with the mask resembles the character of V. Under their masks both have scars on their face, but as one the characters in Kabuki puts it

 I think your scars are far deeper than the eyes can see.

Which I think is true in both cases of V and Kabuki. There is a trauma attached to the scar behind the mask, which they cannot forget, they do not want to forget. What they remember is revenge which RGV quoting in Rakhtacharitra [Blood History]  from Gita says:

Revenge is the purest form of emotion.

The masks gives them a new identity, which they can relate to. The masks that they were have become them. They cannot be separated from them. They have become their identity, which they cannot forsake, at any costs.

This post is not complete, will update it when time permits.

* Quotes
** Circle of blood
# 3

One must aim beyond the target. One must aim a long way. Our whole
life, our whole spirit travels with the arrow. And when the arrow has
been fired, it is never the end.

# 4

When in the company of deceptive hearts, be only honest, and your
opponents will fool themselves.

I am a reflection, trapped in the world of a little girl.

# 5

I am invisible, untraceable… like tears in the rain.

But I love the intimacy of books. I love the physical act of turning
the pages and the tactile sensations of fine rice paper contrasting
with an embossed hardcover in my hand.

But then, everybody has their own ghosts, don’t they?

Kai, is life a straight line or a circle?
Both and neither. It’s a spiral like your DNA.

There is no morality in virtual reality. What kind of person will he
grow up to be?

#6

She is going to break your heart into two.
Its true.
Its not hard to realize.
She is going to smile to make you frown,
what a clown.
‘Cause everybody knows
She’s a femme fatale
The things she does to please
she’s just a little tease.

It is time to master duality of your nature you must decide who you
really are.

I play my games, but the hand of fate is much quicker than the lie.

Just as the locusts cloak the sun, my perceptions blinded me.

The warrior unencumbered and willing to go further than his opponent
would always win.

I swallowed the locusts, and with it my fear

Look at the swan skimming the water. Angel wings of ivory feathers, its
eyes veiled in a mask of black. Its beauty rivaled only by its very
own reflection. Ghostly and regal, it seems to glide effortlessly on
the ponds surface, but below the surface… its feed are peddling like
hell…

We are faceless pawns.
Funny thing about pawns. If they make it to the other side, they
become the most powerful player on the board. That is where I am
going. The other side.

I am armed only with the power that my physical presence commands.

I feel the burning of their gaze and it keeps me warm.

A voice in my head tells me the bullet had my name on it.
I tell the voice that they misspelled my name.

# Fear the Reaper

A city whose technology has surpassed its humanity.

If you gaze into eyes of the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

Sometimes there is no comedy, there is no tragedy only a closing
curtain. Sometimes the curtain falls slowly, sometimes it just falls.

We are only faces, yet we are faceless… nothing but a pack of cards
in wonderland.

I am drifting in the dark halfway between the Sun and the Moon.

** Masks of the Noh

#1
Crying and laughter… pain and desire are sisters.

#2

Time always catches up with you.

Never in words had I experienced the chilling satisfaction of words.

#4

Nothing is black and white anymore, it all blurs together.

** Skin Deep

#1

I used to get lost in the shuffle, now I just shuffle along with the
lost.

I think your scars are far deeper than the eyes can see.

The crossing of the divide between abstract and concrete,
representations between `mute’ and `speaking’ figures leads us to the
heart of what fascinated me. – M C Escher

The transformation takes place within our minds.

The only way to define your own identity is to be completely alone.

I don’t seek to find myself.
I seek to loose myself.
Escape is a burning hope.

If horror is not your friend it is your enemy.

** Metamorphosis

#2
You have an interesting way of putting things. And interesting places
to put them.

If it can be taken from you, it was never you to begin with.
After they take away all they can what remains is you.
Only in these situations, we truly know who we are.

#6
Your yesterday is about to collide with your tomorrow.

Your environment reflects your internal disposition.

You can’t face the future until you resolve the past.