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If we censored Dante, Shakespeare and Jesus would be next in line
By Peter Mullen
By Peter Mullen
Would you agree that a university student reading a medieval Italian text might be thought to possess some intelligence? The text in question is Dante’s Divine Comedy. Well, there is a group with the bizarre name Gherush 92 which advises the United Nations on issues of racism and discrimination and they say that university students “lack the filters” to understand Dante’s great work’s historical context. And so they are being exposed to a poisonous diet of racism.
No they are not. I dislike self-appointed guardians of public taste who patronise us by telling us we’re too thick to see the wood for the trees. Dante makes Mohammed suffer a horrible punishment in hell. He is also pretty nasty about Jews. But Christians he regards as apostate come under his lash as well.
Here is a universal, inevitable truth: all great books contain nasty things. This is simply a matter of logic, for if a writer wants to show the miracle of human goodness this can only be achieved by setting it against the depths of human evil. The Koran itself prescribes what some might regard as cruel and unusual punishments for criminals. Those beautiful ancient poems the Psalms contain some blood-curdling curses such as that upon the Babylonians: “Blessed shall be he that taketh thy children and throweth them against the stones.”
And if you think that’s just the Old Testament, superseded by the New, how about this from gentle Jesus meek and mild: “Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Let’s get rid of Shakespeare while we’re at it. That Merchant of Venice is particularly offensive to Jews and surely obscene with its suggestion about carving out a pound of a man’s flesh. Titus Andronicus bakes Chiron and Demetrius in a pie and makes Tamora eat it.
If racism, discrimination and violence towards women disqualifies a book from being studied, then Bill Sikes’ cruelty to Nancy culminating in her murder would do away with Oliver Twist. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde would follow, then Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street… Grimm’s Fairy Tales… War and Peace.
The final result would be the abolition of world literature and the only texts left for us to read would be the tendentious tracts published by the idiots and bigots in Gherush 9.
There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies... Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
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