James Bond books edited to remove racist references

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edited February 2023 in Literary 007 Posts: 3,464
James Bond books edited to remove racist references

Reissued versions of Ian Fleming’s classic works will feature a disclaimer following a review by sensitivity readers.
James Bond novels have been rewritten to remove a number of racial references from Ian Fleming’s work, The Telegraph can reveal.

All of the author’s thrillers featuring 007 are set to be reissued in April to mark 70 years since Casino Royale, the first book in the series, was published.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, the company that owns the literary rights to the author’s work, commissioned a review by sensitivity readers of the classic texts under its control.

The Telegraph understands that a disclaimer accompanying the reissued texts 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.”

The changes to Fleming’s books result in some depictions of black people being reworked or removed.

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.

References to the “sweet tang of rape”, “blithering women” failing to do a “man’s work”, and homosexuality being a “stubborn disability” also remain.

In the sensitivity reader-approved version of Live and Let Die, Bond’s assessment 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” becomes – “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.”

Another altered scene features Bond visiting Harlem in New York, where a salacious strip tease at a nightclub makes the male crowd, including 007, increasingly agitated.

The original passage read: “Bond could hear the audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough. He felt his own hands gripping the tablecloth. His mouth was dry.”

The revised section replaces the pigs reference with: “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room.”

A further lengthy passage describing Bond’s night out in Harlem, including an argument between a man and his girlfriend conducted largely in accented dialogue Fleming describes as “straight Harlem-Deep South with a lot of New York thrown in”, has been entirely removed.

The word “n----”, which Fleming used to refer to black people when he was writing during the Fifties and Sixties, has been almost entirely expunged from the revised texts.

In most cases, this is replaced by “black person” or “black man”, but racial descriptors are entirely dropped in some instances.


In one example, some criminals escaping from Bond in Dr No become simply “gangsters”. In the same novel, the race of a doctor and an immigration officer now go unmentioned, as does that of a henchman shot by Bond.

The ethnicity of a barman in Thunderball is similarly omitted in new editions. In Quantum of Solace, a butler’s race now also goes unmentioned.

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”.

Bond literature has been tweaked before to suit different markets, and Fleming gave editor Al Hart his blessing to tone down sex scenes for American readers.

The author also permitted US publishers to tone down racial references in Live and Let Die.

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.

“We encourage people to read the books for themselves when the new paperbacks are published in April.”

In the past, Fleming’s US publishers changed the title of Casino Royale to You Asked For It and 007 was even referred to in the blurb as Jimmy Bond.

In 1954, Live and Let Die was banned in the Republic of Ireland.

Read more about here:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/02/25/james-bond-books-edited-remove-racist-references/
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Comments

  • George_KaplanGeorge_Kaplan Not a red herring
    edited February 2023 Posts: 587
    If it makes them more palatable to modern readers then I'm all for it. Better that than the books being lost to time. None of these changes really affect anything or devalue Fleming's writing. And I've already read them in their original unedited form so it's of no consequence to me.
  • Posts: 2,400
    Honestly, it seems (predictably) that Live and Let Die is subject to the most changes, and I'd actually be interested in giving the new version a read given that the original is EASILY the worst of the novels on a readability level.
  • Posts: 14,933
    Oh hell no!
  • Posts: 3,381
    I personally don't like text revisions when it comes to these sorts of things (at least outside of what was intended by the author during their lifetimes. Not actually 100% sure what they mean by 'following Ian's lead' when making these changes). I've said in the past the best thing to do with the Bond novels is to have introductions by established critics or authors talking about whatever issues they contain, the context behind it, and their take on the book etc. Not by anyone who dislikes these novels, just individuals who will be able to give a different perspective on it while talking a bit more openly about these sorts of instances of racism, homophobia etc. I mean, it's a pretty common thing to do and modern reprints of even Dickens and Shakespeare (both authors with at times some pretty ropey stuff in their writing) do this.

    I'm sure it'd be much more informative than a slightly sanitised version of a book written in the 1950s.
  • Fire_and_Ice_ReturnsFire_and_Ice_Returns I am trying to get away from this mountan!
    edited February 2023 Posts: 24,291
    As someone who studied English Literature at University and was taught to be a critical reader, I do wonder where this revision will end. At which point does a novel cease to be the original work of the author, a novel is reflective of the sensibilities and time period in which it was written. Is it better to erase history or to educate and understand history?
  • George_KaplanGeorge_Kaplan Not a red herring
    Posts: 587
    007HallY wrote: »
    I personally don't like text revisions when it comes to these sorts of things (at least outside of what was intended by the author during their lifetimes. Not actually 100% sure what they mean by 'following Ian's lead' when making these changes). I've said in the past the best thing to do with the Bond novels is to have introductions by established critics or authors talking about whatever issues they contain, the context behind it, and their take on the book etc. Not by anyone who dislikes these novels, just individuals who will be able to give a different perspective on it while talking a bit more openly about these sorts of instances of racism, homophobia etc. I mean, it's a pretty common thing to do and modern reprints of even Dickens and Shakespeare (both authors with at times some pretty ropey stuff in their writing) do this.

    I'm sure it'd be much more informative than a slightly sanitised version of a book written in the 1950s.

    Good point.
  • Posts: 14,933
    007HallY wrote: »
    I personally don't like text revisions when it comes to these sorts of things (at least outside of what was intended by the author during their lifetimes. Not actually 100% sure what they mean by 'following Ian's lead' when making these changes). I've said in the past the best thing to do with the Bond novels is to have introductions by established critics or authors talking about whatever issues they contain, the context behind it, and their take on the book etc. Not by anyone who dislikes these novels, just individuals who will be able to give a different perspective on it while talking a bit more openly about these sorts of instances of racism, homophobia etc. I mean, it's a pretty common thing to do and modern reprints of even Dickens and Shakespeare (both authors with at times some pretty ropey stuff in their writing) do this.

    I'm sure it'd be much more informative than a slightly sanitised version of a book written in the 1950s.

    It would be the smart thing to do, so of course they'll ignore it.

    The worst thing is, it's not like the offensive elements of Ian Fleming's work has not been acknowledged, analysed, studied, criticised, commented on before. It exists, whether we like it or not. It's part of Bond's history.
  • GoldenGunGoldenGun Per ora e per il momento che verrà
    Posts: 6,861
    As someone who studied English Literature at University and was taught to be a critical reader, I do wonder where this revision will end. At which point does a novel cease to be the original work of the author, a novel is reflective of the sensibilities and time period in which it was written. Is it better to erase history or to educate and understand history?

    On that last question, I am a firm believer in the latter. I believe it's impossible to learn from history if said history gets erased as if it never happened. Instead let's observe history and learn important lessons from it.

    Concerning revising old literature (or movies, or any other form of art, for that matter), I wonder why such a thing is necessary, given that certain works can definitely be accompanied by an editor's note to put them into a contextual time frame.

    Speaking of learning important lessons from history. I wouldn't go as far as calling anyone a radicalist, but erasing history, burning books or even modifying these things to whatever fits one's beliefs the best have always been a cause for alarm.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 23,838
    How sure are we that the article isn't a hoax?
  • edited February 2023 Posts: 1,043
    If true, this makes me angry.
    If Ian Fleming publications had any balls, they'd say "We're reprinting the books as modern classics with the original English first edition text, as we are confident that modern readers of Ian Fleming's work will fully understand the historical context of any inappropriate passages contained therein".
    Hooray for Folio editions I say.
  • CraigMooreOHMSSCraigMooreOHMSS Dublin, Ireland
    Posts: 8,136
    I personally don't mind altered versions, as long as it's based on the condition that they are not there to replace the original ones.
  • TheSkyfallen06TheSkyfallen06 Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    edited February 2023 Posts: 1,039
    'Live And Let Die' seems to be a re-issue of the American censored version which changes the name of chapter IV (Nick Gurr Heaven/Seventh Avenue) and cuts part of the novel.
  • Posts: 1,043
    I personally don't mind altered versions, as long as it's based on the condition that they are not there to replace the original ones.

    But they are. Anyone walking into a bookshop to buy an Ian Fleming James Bond novel, won't have a choice of the original or the updated version. There'll just be the updated version on the shelf. What is that, if it's not 'replacing'?
  • CraigMooreOHMSSCraigMooreOHMSS Dublin, Ireland
    edited February 2023 Posts: 8,136
    I personally don't mind altered versions, as long as it's based on the condition that they are not there to replace the original ones.

    But they are. Anyone walking into a bookshop to buy an Ian Fleming James Bond novel, won't have a choice of the original or the updated version. There'll just be the updated version on the shelf. What is that, if it's not 'replacing'?

    Is this your crystal ball working hard to make an argument out of a hypothetical principle put forward by myself, or have you actually seen these updated versions on the shelves? Obviously, if they are replacing originals then I'd have a problem with it.
  • edited February 2023 Posts: 1,043
    'Live And Let Die' seems to be a re-issue of the American censored version which changes the name of chapter IV (Nick Gurr Heaven/Seventh Avenue) and cuts part of the novel.

    Fleming agreed to the American version, so there could be an argument for re-printing that, (as Penguin classics did about ten years ago). But even then, I'd rather have the original UK first edition text, (which Folio reprinted only a few years ago in a lovely edition).

    Edit. While we're discussing censorship, (that's what it is, isn't it?). I though you might like to see the 2017 Penguin Classic, and their explanation for using the US version. I'm not actually convinced that Fleming preferred the US version, as I've also read he was quite proud of the passage that was extricated from the US version. Anyway, here ;tis. .

    1.jpg

    2.jpg

    3.jpg
  • Posts: 1,043
    Is this your crystal ball working hard to make an argument out of a hypothetical principle put forward by myself. . .

    Yes! It's exactly that.


    balls.jpg
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,012
    DarthDimi wrote: »
    How sure are we that the article isn't a hoax?

    I'm pretty sure it's not a hoax as @moneyofpropre2 already pointed out in the "Bond Book Butchery" thread that the e-book version of Live and Let Die is using the US Seventh Avenue chapter title instead of the original British chapter title which included the n-word. So that indicates that the US "race edit" text is being used instead, albeit an updated and more heavily sanitised version. What is a revelation is that all of the novels are having this extended to them, though maybe this is understandable given the recent news regarding Roald Dahl's children's books.
  • CraigMooreOHMSSCraigMooreOHMSS Dublin, Ireland
    Posts: 8,136
    Is this your crystal ball working hard to make an argument out of a hypothetical principle put forward by myself. . .

    Yes! It's exactly that.


    balls.jpg

    Ha! Touché.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 23,838
    Well, I simply hope both "versions" will remain availabe. And then we'll see which one sells better.
  • thedovethedove hiding in the Greek underworld
    Posts: 5,132
    First Roald Dahl and now Fleming. I can't believe we are going here and starting to alter a novel based on today's sensibilities. I am in the provide context at the start or end of the book and let the text live as the author intended. This slippery slope of removing things that today's reader may find offensive is not a good idea.

    Where will it end? Who decides what is and isn't appropriate. I have a wonderful idea, if you think a book will offend you don't read it. I admit it's a novel concept but I think it works wonders.

  • MajorDSmytheMajorDSmythe "I tolerate this century, but I don't enjoy it."Moderator
    Posts: 13,970
    I don't think there has been any mention of an alternate release with the original text, like with Roald Dahl and the recently announces Collectors Editions. With Fleming, these sanitized 'sensitivity reader approved*' editions are all we are getting. On one hand, I am staunchly against this tampering. Why not put a disclaimer at the start and leave it at that? On the other hand, I do have 97 copies of the Fleming Bond books (not to mention the many editions that I don't have, published over the years). So I am not gagging for Diluted Editions of the Bond books.


    *sensitivity reader conjures an image of a caricature of the average twitter user.
  • Posts: 12,359
    If there really are people out there who want this and have their feelings hurt by decades-old fiction, fine, go ahead and make a new version. But don’t tamper with history and ruin it for the rest of us, who are intelligent enough to know what was differently acceptable at different points of time, by removing the original versions. Frankly I don’t know why anyone would want an edited version, knowing well what was written in there to begin with. You’re still otherwise reading the same content from the same author. In that sense, it’s almost sillier than banning it altogether.
  • brinkeguthriebrinkeguthrie Piz Gloria
    edited February 2023 Posts: 1,400
    Oh please. "We don't want to offend anyone." Ugh.
  • thedovethedove hiding in the Greek underworld
    Posts: 5,132
    I don't think there has been any mention of an alternate release with the original text, like with Roald Dahl and the recently announces Collectors Editions.

    *sensitivity reader conjures an image of a caricature of the average twitter user.

    First, thanks for the clarification! I didn't know that Dahl's work was still being respected and in original format. The sensitivity reader sounds very funny to my ears and I had a chuckle with your comment! Thanks for a laugh on a serious topic.

    It is funny that "right wing" organizations were very much in the ban books camp. The "left" would say this was not something one should do. Now the "left" is suggesting and making these alterations and "right wing" groups are fighting to keep the text as is. What strange times we live in!
  • Jordo007Jordo007 Merseyside
    Posts: 2,617
    I think it's important we know our history, so we can learn from our mistakes, not to rewrite them out of history.
    A disclaimer would suffice
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 23,838
    Jordo007 wrote: »
    I think it's important we know our history, so we can learn from our mistakes, not to rewrite them out of history.
    A disclaimer would suffice

    This. Yes. We should be discussing history, not trying to delete it.
  • Posts: 12,359
    The sooner it's deleted and forgotten, the sooner society returns to committing the same errors.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    edited February 2023 Posts: 23,838
    Even worse is the evident insult behind it all. These people are basically telling us that we cannot be trusted with Fleming's original words, that we cannot handle them or intellectually process their meaning in the context of the when, why and by whom they were written. In other words, we are all a bunch of crazy kookoos who must be protected from themselves, who might read something atrocious and then be inspired to "act it out" in real life. I suppose that is why after over 30 years of being a Bond fan I have never lit a cig, never broken any traffic laws, never killed someone, never played at a casino, never slapped a woman, never poisoned my liver with alcohol and, most of all, never showed any racist behavior. So I will kindly accept these people's formal apology for suggesting otherwise.

    But wait, they aren't doing this for me, but for the few people out there who might take any of Fleming’s words personally. First of all, don't. Fleming wasn't writing about "you". Secondly, good luck with that. Hundreds of thousands of books, films, comics, ... to clean up. I am really interested in reading the bible after all the violence against women, racism, and hate speech are taken out.
  • Posts: 12,359
    The Bible being edited for political correctness….. that is a wild thought x’D
  • Posts: 9,822
    I would comment on this but on advice of legal council I am invoking my fifth amendment rights.
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