Monday, September 23, 2013

Louise Brooks Society marks Banned Books Week

This week is Banned Books Week, the book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Throughout the week, hundreds of libraries and bookstores and readers and writers around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting events.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a rise in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Since 1982, more than 11,300 books have been challenged. According to the American Library Association, there were 464 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012. Many more go unreported. For more information on Banned Books Week, click here

The Louise Brooks Society marks Banned Books Week by displaying this page about a frequently challenged book closely associated with the career of Louise Brooks. (Not only was the book challenged, so was the German stage play based on the book, as were the two silent film adaptions.)

The Diary of a Lost Girl was first published in Germany in 1905 under the title Tagebuch einer Verlorenen. By the end of the Twenties, it had been translated into 14 languages, published around the world, and sold more than 1,200,000 copies. It is counted among the best-selling books of its time.

Today, however, it is little known.

Was it, as was claimed, the real-life diary of a young woman forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution? A veiled feminist critique of the treatment of women? Or a sensational and clever fake, one of the first novels of its kind? Debate swirled around its authorship for years.

The bestselling book
that shocked a nation!

Described by one contemporary scholar as “Perhaps the most notorious and certainly the commercially most successful autobiographical narrative of the early twentieth century,” the book was nothing less than a literary phenomenon. The New York Times described it as "shocking." A newspaper in New Zealand called it "The saddest of modern books."

Widely discussed, it was written about by critic Walter Benjamin, by the followers of Freud, and by novelist Henry Miller (who claimed it a favorite). Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, thought it should be banned. Censored in some countries, the book was barred entry into others. Eventually, after more than 25 years of acclaim and criticism, as well as controversy over its true authorship, the book was driven out of print in the early days of Nazi Germany.

This contested book – a work of unusual historical significance and literary sophistication – inspired not only a cult following but also a sequel, a play, a parody, a genre's worth of imitators, and two silent movies. The best remembered of these is Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), the G.W. Pabst film starring screen legend Louise Brooks.

This new edition, featuring the original English language translation, brings a notable work back into print after more than a century. The "Louise Brooks Edition" includes some three dozen illustrations, numerous annotations, and an essay by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society, detailing the book's remarkable history and relationship to the acclaimed 1929 silent film. 

Learn more about The Diary of a Lost Girl at

Praise for the original edition of THE DIARY OF A LOST GIRL:

The “poignant story of a great-hearted girl who kept her soul alive amidst all the mire that surrounded her poor body.” – Hall Caine

“The fact that one German critic asserted the impossibility of a woman herself immune from vice having written such a book, is proof that besides truth of matter there was compelling art in Margarete Böhme’s book.” – Percival Pollard 

“The moral justification of such a publication is to be found in the fact that it shrivels up sentimentality; the weak thing cannot stand and look at such stark degradation.” – Manchester Guardian

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