La Comedie Humaine, Les Contes Drolatiques

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Date: 1841, 1850, 1914, 1953

Region: Europe Russia and Central Asia North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature


Artist: Balzac, Honore de (1799-1850)

Confronting Bodies: The Roman Catholic Church, Russian State, Canadian Customs, U.S. Customs, U.S. Postal Service, Spain under Franco's rule

Dates of Action: 1841, 1850, 1914, 1953

Location: Italy, Russia, Canada, U.S.A., Spain

Description of Artwork: Novels: La Comedie Humaine, 1831-1847: Balzac's vast life work was arranged under the title in which he claimed at once to be a philosopher, explaining man to himself, a historian or "secretary" of society and a sociologist and psychologist. Les Contes Drolatiques (Droll Stories), 1832-1837.

The Incident: 1841: Rome, Italy: All works listed on the Index. 1850: Russia: All works banned. 1914, Canada: Les Contes Drolatiques (Droll Stories) banned by Customs. 1953: Spain: Franco purged the libraries of the works of "such disgraceful writers" as Balzac.

Results of Incident: 1930, U.S.A.: Customs ban lifted. 1944, New York City, USA: Concords Books, Inc. issued a sale catalogue of 100 books for $.49 each including Les Contes Drolatiques (Droll Stories). They were notified by the Post Office Department that the catalogue violated the section relating to mailing of obscene literature, and that the title must be blocked out. This was done. In the Soviet Union, however, Balzac's works were published in large editions.

Source: Banned Books 387 B.C. to 1978 A.D., by Anne Lyon Haight, and Chandler B. Grannis, R.R. Bowker Co, 1978.