Publisher to edit out racist references in James Bond novels

The revised texts have almost entirely done away with the N-word slur, which author Ian Fleming used to refer to Blacks when he wrote in the 1950s and '60s.

The publisher of James Bond novels is implementing some adjustments by removing racial references from a number of the books, with some representations of Black people being altered or eliminated as a result.

According to The Telegraph, Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., which owns the rights to Ian Fleming’s works, requested that sensitivity readers evaluate its classics.

Bond literature has been altered in the past to appeal to various markets, with the author allowing editor Al Hart to reduce the intensity of the sex scenes for American readers.

Ian Fleming, James Bond 007 author
Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., the company that owns the rights to works written by author Ian Fleming (above), has edited out racist references in several James Bond novels set for reissuing in April. (Photo: Screenshot/ News)

In a statement, Fleming Publications said it examined the text in some of the original Bond books and determined that following Fleming’s direction was the best course of action.

“Following Ian’s approach,” the publisher said in a statement, The Telegraph reported, “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.”

The revised texts have almost entirely done away with the N-word, which Fleming used to refer to Black people when he wrote in the 1950s and 1960s. The most common replacement used is “Black person” or “Black man,” but the texts entirely abandon racial characterizations in some cases.

Outdated allusions to certain racial groups still exist, however, such as Bond’s terms for East Asians and the spy’s unfavorable opinions of Oddjob, Goldfinger’s Korean henchman. There are also still references to the “sweet tang of rape,” “blithering women” not being able to do a man’s job, and homosexuality being a “stubborn disability.”

In the sensitivity reader-approved version of “Live and Let Die,” the wording “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much” is changed to drop the drinking reference to African would-be criminals in the gold and diamond trades.

A different scenario has Bond in New York visiting Harlem, where a lewd strip tease at a club gets 007 and the rest of the male audience increasingly agitated.

While the original passage compares the audience panting and grunting to pigs at the trough, the revised section replaces the reference with “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room.”

The revisions to the Bond books come after passages from Roald Dahl’s books were removed on the advice of cultural sensitivity specialists hired by the company’s Puffin children’s label, according to The Associated Press.

All of the novels featuring Agent 007 will be reprinted in April, to mark 70 years since the publication of the first Bond book, “Casino Royale.” Following the reprint, which will include a disclaimer, Fleming Publications urged readers to read the books themselves.

Puffin will republish Dahl’s books in their uncensored version after a backlash. While Fleming was amenable to changes to his writing, Dahl reportedly vowed 40 years ago to never write another word if his publishers ever altered his language, according to AP.

“This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace,” the disclaimer in the Bond books will read, according to The Telegraph. It notes that updates were made “while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set.”

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