2 weeks ago I wrote a blog post about history’s most controversial authors. Part 2 is devoted to 8 more recent/contemporary controversial authors. They are presented in the order in which they were born.
John Steinbeck(February 27th 1902 – December 20th 1968)
John Steinbeck is one of the most acclaimed literary figures America has ever produced. His accolades include The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1940) and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1962). He was highly critical of America’s economic policies, and a fervent supporter of unionisation. These views made him a reviled figure in some circles. His seminal work, The Grapes of Wrath, was burned on 2 separate occasions in his hometown of Salinas.
George Orwell(June 25th 1903 – January 21st 1950)
George Orwell was opposed to totalitarianism and committed to democratic socialism, ideals that resulted in the author often courting controversy. His allegorical novella, Animal Farm, was seen as being highly critical of Stalin’s rule. Animal Farm and his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, were banned in the USSR. Orwell’s accounts of poverty in The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London did not endear him to all in his home country.
William S. Burroughs(February 5th 1914 – August 2nd 1997)
William S. Burroughs was at forefront of the Beat generation, influencing the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Burroughs was a controversial character with a penchant for rent boys and heroin. His writing is characterised as being sardonic, dark and often humorous. Arguably his most famous book, the non-linear Naked Lunch was viewed as so scandalous at the time of its publication that it underwent a court case under U.S. obscenity laws.
Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn(December 11th 1918 – August 3rd 2008)
Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, whose accolades included winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. His novella, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, is widely considered the most powerful indictment of the USSR’s gulag system ever written. In 1973 the first of his three-volume account about life in the gulags, The Gulag Archipelago, caused such outrage in the Soviet Union that he was expelled from the country.
Salman Rushdie(Born: June 19th 1947)
Rushdie’s second novel, Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize in 1981. His fourth book, The Satanic Verses, was deemed offensive by many Muslims, as it refers to a number of allegedly pagan verses, temporarily included in the Qur’an and later removed. When Ayatollah Khomeini issued a Fatwa against the author in 1989, Rushdie was rushed into protective custody, as rioting, book burnings and fire-bombings raged through the Muslim world.
Chuck Palahniuk(Born: February 21st 1962)
Palahniuk has constantly courted controversy with the content of his books; no mean feat in today’s era of tolerance. His short story, Guts, about masturbation accidents, contained in his book, Haunted, was met with such shock that people even passed out at public readings. Haunted is often voted in polls as one of the most disturbing books ever written. It has been banned along with the author’s other works in many schools.
Taslima Nasrin(Born: 25 August 1962)
Themes in controversial Bangladeshi author and poet Taslima Nasreen’s writing include female oppression and graphic language. When she criticised Islamic philosophy in her book Lajja (1993), a radical fundamentalist organisation called the Council of Islamic Soldiers offered a bounty for her head. The following year she fled Bangladesh to West Bengal. Concerns for her safety culminated in the author going into hiding in New Delhi. In 2015 she moved to the US.
Bret Easton Ellis(Born: March 7th 1964)
Bret Easton Ellis’s third novel, the infamous American Psycho, caused uproar even before its release date. The book was viewed by many in the literary establishment as scandalous, due to its explicit violent sexual content, and its perceived misogynistic elements. Easton-Ellis has continued to court controversy ever since, not only through his books, but also with his incendiary Tweeting habits, which have included Tweets on such sensitive subjects as HIV and Aids.
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