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First Roald Dahl, now Ian Fleming’s James Bond books are changed by publishers

Last week, bookworms were furious to learn that a number of Roald Dahl classics would be rewritten to become more inclusive.

Now, the James Bond novels are also undergoing a big revamp.

The 14-book spy novel series by Ian Fleming – the basis for the hugely successful movie franchise – will be re-released in April in honour of Casino Royale’s 70th anniversary.

But first, its publishers have decided to adjust the text for a modern audience.

According to a report in The Telegraph, the rights holders to the series, Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, commissioned a review of the series by sensitivity readers ahead of their re-release.

The rewriting will reportedly focus on Fleming’s descriptions of characters, particularly ethnic minorities.

The outlet reports that Fleming’s use of one racist descriptor has almost entirely been removed or replaced with ‘black person’ or ‘black man’.

In Fleming’s Live and Let Die, for example, Bond describes Africans in the gold and diamond trades as “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much”.

This has since been changed to “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought”.

Following their rewrite, the books will also feature the following content warning:

“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.”

James Bond

The original James Bond novels are being re-released in honour of Casino Royale’s 70th anniversary. Photo: Getty

Not the first time

Fleming had approved changes to his novels before his death in 1964.

He gave US publishers permission to tone down racial references in Live and Let Die, as well as sex scenes across the series.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd said it was following “Ian’s lead” with the decision.

“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,” it stated. 

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

The news received a mix reaction from fans of agent 007.

Some applauded the publisher for its move.

“It would be legitimately easier to just rewrite them from scratch. It can’t be emphasised how racist Ian Fleming and by extension James Bond is in the novels,” one Twitter user said.

Others called on the publisher to stop rewriting history.

“In other words, they are rewriting and sanitising history. But isn’t that what history is?” one wrote.

“Are we really going to rewrite all books? Would be easier to just put an advisory sticker on the cover,” another said.

Roald Dahl publishers backflip

Last week, it was revealed that a number of Roald Dahl classics had been revised in the name of inclusivity.

Hundreds of edits were made to 10 of Dahl’s books, including Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Matilda.

Some of the most targeted words and phrases refer to appearance, gender, race and mental health.

The move was met with widespread criticism, including from two of the UK’s most influential figures.

Queen Consort Camilla urged authors to resist curbs on “freedom of expression”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined the criticism, a spokesperson for the PM said works of fiction should be “preserved and not airbrushed”.

Bowing to pressure, publisher Puffin announced that 17 of Dahl’s titles would be published later this year, with his original text unchanged.

In a statement, Penguin said readers would be free to choose which version of Dahl’s books they prefer.

“By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories,” Penguin Random House children’s managing director Francesca Dow said.

 

In 2020, Dahl’s family and the Roald Dahl Story Company issued an apology for his anti-Semitic history.

“Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations,” their apology stated.

“We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.”

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