Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H.Lawrence was banned temporarily in the US, UK and Australia for violating obscenity laws. The tale is about an isolated upper class Bohemian, Connie Chatterley, whose unsatisfactory marriage to a paralysed war veteran, Clifford Chatterley, leads her to engage in sex with other men, including vividly written liaisons with Oliver Mellors, a young gamekeeper on her husband's estate. The ban was lifted in the America and Britain in 1959 and 1960 respectively.
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs was not published in its original form in America in 1959 and courts in Boston banned it for obscenity in 1962. The decision was reversed in 1966 and the disjointed series of vignettes about drug addict William Lee has long since been seen as Burroughs' seminal work.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which is ironically a tale about banning books, was banned in several American states and schools around the world. The plot centres around fireman, Guy Montag, whose job is to burn books and the title refers to the temperature at which paper combusts. The work was published in 1953 during McCarthyism and was widely seen to be about censorship although Bradbury has refuted this.
Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 book Lolita was temporarily banned in several countries including France, Britain and South Africa for its depiction of unlikely narrator Humbert Humbert's passion for "nymphet" Lolita, a thirteen-year-old girl, and their ensuing sexual relationship.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert was banned in France and Flaubert was prosecuted and subsequently acquitted for "offences against public morals" in 1857. The story is about a doctor whose young wife Emma Bovary falls in love with another man and then has a three-year-long affair with a rakish landowner Rodolphe Boulanger. After her plans to run off with Boulanger are thwarted by his indifference, Bovary has further unsuccessful liaisons and eventually kills herself.
The Pope banned Machiavelli's The Prince in 1559 for promoting anti-Christian beliefs. It is a political manifesto, examining power structures and promoting military rule, which Machiavelli wrote in 1513 but which was only published after his death.
Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms might strike you as fairly innocuous but was banned in some states in America for its detailed sexual content and was also prohibited in Italy, allegedly for its unflattering portrayal of the retreat from Caporetto during the Second World War, in which its narrator is fighting.
Les 120 journées de Sodome by the Marquis de Sade has been frequently banned due to its descriptions of orgies and licentiousness. The story is about four rich male libertines who decide to pursue their lusts to the extreme regardless of commonly accepted morality. It was written while Sade was imprisoned in the Bastille, reputedly in less than a month.
George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four, a novel about a dystopian society controlled by thought police, was banned by the Soviet Union in 1950, during Stalin's dictatorship, and was nearly prohibited in the USA and UK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is the story of civil servant Winston Smith and contains well-used euphemisms for state control as Big Brother, new speak and Room 101.
We are only as free as we allow our imaginations and the imaginations of others to be.