The James Bond novels by acclaimed author Ian Fleming have been censored after Ian Fleming Publications Ltd hired sensitivity readers to review the material and make suggestions to language, especially around racial descriptions of characters.
The Telegraph reports, "The changes to Fleming's books result in some depictions of black people being reworked or removed" and several instances of Fleming referring to black characters as "n*gger" have been expunged.
"Dated references to other ethnicities remain, such as Bond’s racial terms for east Asian people and the spy's disparaging views of Oddjob, Goldfinger's Korean henchman," reports the Telegraph.
In the case of the racial epithet, either the passages were removed entirely or "black person" or "black man" were substituted.
In Dr. No, the race of an immigration officer, a doctor, and a henchman have been removed as has a barman's race in Thunderball and a butler's race in Quantum of Solace.
According to the Telegraph, "Detail is also removed from Goldfinger, where the race of the drivers in the Second World War logistics unit, the Red Ball Express – which had many black servicemen – is not mentioned, instead referring only to 'ex-drivers.'"
In Live and Let Die's original version, Bond describes gold and diamond criminals from Africa as "pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they've drunk too much" In the new additions the language has been changed to "pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought."
In that same book, Bond's visit to a strip club was originally described as "Bond could hear the audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough." The new version reads, "Bond could sense the electric tension in the room." Another passage removed entirely from Live and Let Die is the reference to a Harlem accent as "straight Harlem-Deep South with a lot of New York thrown in."
References to homosexuality as a "stubborn disability," a "blithering women" being incapable of doing a "man's work," and the "sweet tang of rape," all remain.
Earlier in February, Telegraph published details on the works of beloved children's author Roald Dahl being censored by their publisher, Puffin, after sensitivity readers deemed some of the language offense to modern readers. After backlash, including from PEN America, the publisher announced they were releasing uncensored "classic texts" of Dahl's body of work.
The literary rights to Fleming's Bond novels are owned by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, which hired the sensitivity readers in preparation for an April 2023 reissue to celebrate 70 years passing since the first book in the Bond series, Casino Royale, was published.
Those reissued books will feature a disclaimer that reads, "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."
In the 1960's, Ian Fleming gave permission to his editor, Al Hart, to alter the language of sex scenes for American book publication and allowed some alterations to Live and Let Die concerning race.
Concerning the new changes, Ian Fleming Publications said, "We at Ian Fleming Publications 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. 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."
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