James Bond books scrubbed by ‘sensitivity experts’ ahead of 70th anniversary
It’s a move that might leave some fans shaken.
Ian Fleming’s James Bond books have been rewritten with modern audiences in mind, with so-called sensitivity experts removing a number of racial references ahead of 007’s 70th anniversary this spring, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
The changes come as books by Roald Dahl have also been scrubbed of potentially offensive language, including “fat” or “ugly” characters — and tweaked so as to make the Oompa Loompas of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” gender-neutral.
All of Fleming’s thrillers — from “Casino Royale” to “Octopussy” — will be re-released this spring after Ian Fleming Publications, the company that owns the literary rights to Fleming’s work, commissioned a review by “sensitivity readers.”
The new versions of the classic novels will include a disclaimer that reads: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.”
It adds: “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.”
In some cases racial descriptors have been completely scrubbed from the text.
In the novel, “Dr. No” (1958), criminals escaping from Bond become “gangsters” and the race of a doctor and immigration officer now go unmentioned. The ethnicity of a barman in “Thunderball” (1961) is also omitted, as is the race of a butler in “Quantum of Solace” (1959).
The n-word, which Fleming used to refer to black people in books he wrote during the 1950s and 60s, has been almost entirely removed from the new editions.
Revisions to the Bond books depend on the market. In America, edits include toned down sex scenes and modified racial references in “Live and Let Die.”
While some depictions of black people have been reworked, other antiquated references remain. For instance, the racial terms Bond uses to refer to Asian people and his unfavorable views of the Korean character Oddjob will stay, as will his remarks about the “sweet tang of rape” and homosexuality being a “stubborn disability,” according to the Telegraph.
Ian Fleming Publications said: “We 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 authorized.
“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.”
The new volumes are expected to be published in April.