CRF Blog

Censors at Work

by Bill Hayes

The New York Times Book Review reviews Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature by Robert Darnton.

But what exactly is censorship? This is the question with which Robert Darnton, the foremost historian of the book and the art of reading, begins his enthralling new volume, “Censors at Work.” “Rather than starting with a definition and then looking for examples that conform to it,” Darnton writes, “I have proceeded by interrogating censors themselves.” The censors Darnton has interrogated belong to three very different historical settings: the Old Regime in France, British rule in India and the Communist state that existed under the name of the German Democratic Republic from 1949 to 1990. Darnton spoke with the German censors in the flesh, and with the ghosts of the French and British ones through the vast archives they left behind. Thankfully for Darnton, thankfully for his readers, the one incontrovertible fact about censors is that they love paperwork. [more]