Agatha Christie novels reworked to remove potentially offensive language

From The Guardian:

Several Agatha Christie novels have been edited to remove potentially offensive language, including insults and references to ethnicity.

Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries written between 1920 and 1976 have had passages reworked or removed in new editions published by HarperCollins to strip them of language and descriptions that modern audiences find offensive, especially those involving the characters Christie’s protagonists encounter outside the UK.

Sensitivity readers had made the edits, which were evident in digital versions of the new editions, including the entire Miss Marple run and selected Poirot novels set to be released or that have been released since 2020, the Telegraph reported.

The updates follow edits made to books by Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming to remove offensive references to gender and race in a bid to preserve their relevance to modern readers.

The newspaper reported that the edits cut references to ethnicity, such as describing a character as black, Jewish or Gypsy, or a female character’s torso as “of black marble” and a judge’s “Indian temper”, and removed terms such as “Oriental” and the N-word. The word “natives” has also been replaced with the word “local”.

Among the examples of changes cited by the Telegraph is the 1937 Poirot novel Death on the Nile, in which the character of Mrs Allerton complains that a group of children are pestering her, saying that “they come back and stare, and stare, and their eyes are simply disgusting, and so are their noses, and I don’t believe I really like children”.

This has been stripped down in a new edition to state: “They come back and stare, and stare. And I don’t believe I really like children.”

In the new edition of the 1964 Miss Marple novel A Caribbean Mystery, the amateur detective’s musing that a hotel worker smiling at her has “such lovely white teeth” has been removed, the newspaper added.

Sensitivity readers are a comparatively recent phenomenon in publishing that have gained widespread attention in the past two years. They vet both new publications and older works for potentially offensive language and descriptions, and aim to improve diversity in the publishing industry – though some are paid extremely low wages.

Though this is not the first time the content of Christie’s novels has been changed, her 1939 novel And Then There Were None was previously published under a different title that included a racist term, which was last published under that name in 1977, and included this word repeatedly in the story.

Agatha Christie Limited, a company run by the author’s great-grandson James Prichard, is understood to handle licensing for her literary and film rights. The company and HarperCollins have been contacted for comment.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG is thinking about a provision to add to a publishing contract that will prohibit unapproved edits without the author’s express consent following the first publication of the book.

Sharp-eyed visitors to TPV will notice that PG has categorized this post under Censorship.

4 thoughts on “Agatha Christie novels reworked to remove potentially offensive language”

  1. Horrified by Miss Marple’s language, Karen stumbles over the body and rushes to the bridge to find the ships DEI officer.

    • Having found the ship’s DEI officer, Karen promptly lightened the load of the ship by propelling he/she/it overboard, then returned to trade black humor quips with Miss Marple.

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