This is one of those times when several disparate ideas come banging into each other at the same time.
I’ve been re-watching the James Bond movies and have some thoughts. And then came an announcement that new editions of Ian Fleming’s novels will be published “with racist language removed.”
Just read what follows from Publisher’s Lunch:
A week after the news of Roald Dahl’s books being edited, and not being edited, comes the revelation that new editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels will be published with racist language removed, The Telegraph reports. Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, which holds the rights, hired sensitivity readers to review the books prior to their paperback reissue in April.
The changes particularly deal with references to Black people, including the removal of the n-word. Other racist, sexist, and homophobic language will remain.
The books will contain the following disclaimer, “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.”
I don’t remember the last time I read any Fleming but will dispute that, “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes…” etc. The terms that are now found to be offensive in the original Fleming were fucking offensive then, when he wrote them, and when we first read them.
English lit — if we want to wrap Fleming’s work into the general “lit” category — has a long history of unchallenged racism and antisemitism, especially intolerable in the thriller-mystery category. Try to read John Buchan or early Agatha Christie. I cope with such prejudice in Trollope and Dickens; they were geniuses. But Fleming?
While I’m on the subject, republishing Fleming while paying acute attention to racist language doesn’t do much to address the central (and tedious) misogyny — disguised as the myth of the uber-erotic man no woman can turn down.
Note: I’m not evading racist American lit but that doesn’t come under the general “Bond. James Bond,” category.