Considered to be among the finest authors who ever lived, Agatha Christie is now being subject to revisionism. According to a report by The Telegraph, in a bid to remove racist references and potentially offensive language to suit modern sensibilities, her novels are being relooked into. Christened the ‘Queen of Crime’ her novels that feature the legendary Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, written between 1920 and 1976, are being edited by HarperCollins. This is being done to strip them of descriptions and references to ethnicity which might be considered offensive and insensitive.
In Christie’s debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot describes a character as “a Jew, of course”. This bit has been completely removed from the new version.
Similarly, the word “native” has been replaced with “local” in Christie’s short story collection Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories. In addition, a passage where a servant is referred to as “black” and “grinning” has been removed. The new version sees the removal of a reference to race and changed the action to simply “nodding”.
The publisher and Agatha Christie Ltd., however, have not commented on the issue yet.
More recently, Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming’s works were being looked into. However, after backlash by many including author Salman Rushdie and British PM Rishi Sunak, the publishers backed out. These, too were being done to remove offensive references to gender and race.
Dahl’s publisher, Puffin, had hired ‘sensitivity readers’ to rewrite substantial parts of the books.
Descriptions of characters’ physical appearances which read “fat” and “ugly”, as well as anti-semitic slurs were removed. Gender-neutral terms then added with the aim to improve diversity.
Fleming’s James Bond series will also be released with racial and sexist references edited out. They will also contain a disclaimer: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.”
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