A number of Agatha Christie books have undergone editing to remove any possibly offensive language, such as racial slurs and references. In new editions of Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries published by HarperCollins, passages that modern audiences find offensive have been rewritten or eliminated, especially those involving the characters Christie’s protagonists meet outside the UK. These mysteries were written between 1920 and 1976.
The edits were visible in digital versions of the new editions, including the complete Miss Marple series and a few Poirot books that will be released in 2020 or have already been published, according to the Telegraph.
The revisions come after works by Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming were edited to remove offensive references to race and gender in an effort to keep them relevant to readers today.
According to the newspaper, the edits eliminated words like “Oriental” and the N-word as well as references to race, such as calling a character black, Jewish, or Gypsy, or describing a female character’s torso as “of black marble.” The term “locals” has also been used in lieu of “natives”.
The 1937 Poirot novel Death on the Nile, in which Mrs. Allerton complains that a group of kids are bothering her and that “their eyes are simply disgusting, and so are their noses, and I don’t believe I really like children,” is one of the examples of changes cited by the Telegraph.
In a new version, this has been condensed to read: “They come back and stare, and stare. And I don’t believe I really like children.”
The newspaper added that the amateur detective’s remark that a hotel employee smiling at her has “such lovely white teeth” has been deleted from the new version of Miss Marple’s 1964 book A Caribbean Mystery.
In the last two years, sensitivity readers—a relatively new phenomenon in publishing—have attracted a lot of notice. Although some are paid extremely low wages, they check both new publications and older works for potentially offensive language and descriptions and work to increase diversity in the publishing business.
Christie’s 1939 novel And Then There Were None was originally published under a different title that included a racial slur that was last used in 1977, even though this is the first time the content of one of Christie’s novels has been altered.
It is believed that the author’s literary and film rights are licenced through Agatha Christie Limited, a business managed by her great-grandson James Prichard. We’ve gotten in touch with the business and HarperCollins for a response.
Other 20th-century writers who have had their writings revised
To ensure that the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today,” Dahl’s publisher, Puffin, employed sensitivity readers to rewrite significant portions of the author’s text; however, it will still print the original editions.
The words “fat” and “ugly,” as well as antisemitic allusions, such as to the characters’ large noses in The Witches, were among the offensive terms used to describe how characters looked.
Additionally, gender-neutral terminology was introduced; rather than the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being “small men,” they are now “small people.” James and the Giant Peach’s Cloud-Men have evolved into Cloud-People.
A complete set of the suspense novels will be reissued to commemorate 70 years since the publication of Casino Royale, Fleming’s debut novel starring the British spy James Bond. They will now include the following disclaimer:
“This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.”
Many changes are to remove racist language. In Live and Let Die, Bond’s comment that would-be African criminals in the gold and diamond trades are “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much” has been changed to “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought”.
The words “audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough” have been changed to “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room” in a scene where Bond visits a nightclub in Harlem.
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