Avid readers of Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 novels may have pause for thought over the upcoming 70th Anniversary editions, with the Telegraph UK revealing that “the new editions have been rewritten to remove a number of racial references” that may be deemed or perceived as inappropriate by today’s modern audiences.
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.
Following the review, the Telegraph reports that a disclaimer will accompany the reissued texts, stating that:
“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.”
It is understood that the changes to Fleming’s work result in some depictions of black people being reworked or removed, however dated references to other ethnicities and genders will remain.
For example, in the sensitivity reader-approved version of Live and Let Die (1954), James 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” has been edited to read – “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, with the original passage reading: “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.”
Remarking on the 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.
We encourage people to read the books for themselves when the new paperbacks are published in April.“