James Bond novels to be reissued with racial references removed

Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are to be reissued with a number of racial references removed and a disclaimer that the books might use terms of attitudes “considered offensive by modern readers”.

April marks 70 years since Casino Royale, Fleming’s first book featuring British spy Bond, was published. To mark the occasion, a full set of the thrillers will be reissued.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, which owns the rights to the author’s work, employed sensitivity readers to look at the texts and make recommendations for changes. The changes include the removal of the N-word in almost all cases, and omitting references to the ethnicity of a number of minor characters.

The reissued books will also carry a disclaimer, according to the Telegraph, which will explain the changes and will read: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.

“A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set.”

Many of the changes in the Bond books are around the depiction of Black people. 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 just “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought”, says the Telegraph.

Another change comes in a scene where Bond visits a nightclub in Harlem, and a reference to the “audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough” has been changed to “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room”.

A statement from Ian Fleming Publications to the Telegraph said that they had “reviewed the text of the original Bond books and decided our best course of action was to follow Ian’s lead”.

“We have made changes to Live and Let Die that he himself authorised,” the statement continued. “Following Ian’s approach, we looked at the instances of several racial terms across the books and removed a number of individual words or else swapped them for terms that are more accepted today but in keeping with the period in which the books were written.”

They encouraged “people to read the books for themselves” when they are reissued.

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The changes come after a furore over changes made to books by Roald Dahl, which saw the texts changed after a review by sensitivity readers.

Changes to Dahl’s books in the 2022 editions include using “enormous” rather than “enormously fat” to describe the antagonist Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and “beastly” rather than “ugly and beastly” to describe Mrs Twit in The Twits.

In response to criticism, Dahl’s publisher Puffin, the children’s imprint of Penguin Random House, said it would release the author’s works in their original versions as well as the new texts.


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