DUBLIN, IRELAND -- What do Marcel Proust, Ernest Hemingway, H.G. Wells and Dylan Thomas have in common?
They -- along with the authors of "Hot Dames on Cold Slabs" and "She Died Without Nylons" -- have been banned by the Irish censorship board.
Everything from lurid pornography to the world's classics has come under the censor's microscope.
Ironically, James Joyce's masterpiece "Ulysses," once banned in Britain and the United States on grounds of obscenity, was not banned in Ireland.
Irish censors never explain their decisions.
Joyce and other Irish literary giants such as George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett preferred self-imposed exile to writing in a homeland they felt was stifled, puritanical and isolationist.
A new book charting the history of censorship in Ireland contains interviews with seven Irish writers whose books were banned. Their reactions in "Banned in Ireland" range from rage through sadness to great amusement.
They are no longer banned by the board, which was set up in 1929 as a guardian of the nascent nation's morals in a predominantly Catholic society.
The law was reformed in 1967 so that a book could be banned for only 12 years, after which it was automatically released.
The world's classic literature was at last made freely available and the board is now confined mainly to banning pornography and information literature on abortion, which is illegal in Ireland.
John McGahern, short-listed for this year's British Booker Prize, lost his teaching job and was forced to move to London after his novel "The Dark" was banned.
With more than a touch of bitterness, he recalls: "I didn't manage to write for three or four years after the business."
McGahern, who married a foreigner in a registry office, says he is still haunted by the remark of a member of the Irish National Teachers Organization when he appealed to get his job back.
"By the way, McGahern," he remembers being asked, "what entered your head to go and marry a foreign woman when there's hundreds of thousands of Irish women going around with their tongues out for a husband?"
Brian Moore, another Irish writer short-listed this year for the Booker Prize, recalls being castigated at school for quoting George Bernard Shaw in a school essay.
Edna O'Brien, whose books were called a smear on Irish womanhood, recalls: "If people tell you you've written dirt, even if you know you haven't, some of it stays with you. I wanted to go very far away. Australia even."
Nobel Prize winner Shaw constantly railed against the board and argued that the world would not give a damn if Ireland was determined to become "a little grass patch in which a few million moral cowards are not allowed to call their souls their own."
Beckett, another Nobel Prize winner from the country that is so fiercely proud of its literary tradition, also forcefully condemned its treatment of its writers.
The law originally banned books on three grounds -- indecency, devoting too much attention to crime or advocating "the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage."
As recently as 1987, the board reimposed its ban on "The Joy of Sex," a sex manual by Alex Comfort that has been a bestseller around the globe.
Most authors interviewed for this new book argued that censorship was based on fear in a young Catholic country still seeking its own identity but eager to maintain its national purity.
Banned writer Lee Dunne concluded: "To openly admit that sex is wonderful and that it can be joyous and beautiful and affirming is really regarded with a great deal of suspicion, distaste and repugnance by a great deal of our society, which is still locked into that idea of respectability. The lights-out syndrome."