Date: March 25, 2023 10:49PM
The Telegraph (March 25/2023): Agatha Christie classics latest to be rewritten for modern sensitivitieshttps://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/03/25/agatha-christie-classics-latest-rewritten-modern-sensitivities/
"Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries have original passages reworked or removed in new editions published by HarperCollins."
HC is said to “use the services of sensitivity readers”.
“Agatha Christie novels have been rewritten for modern sensitivities, The Telegraph can reveal.”
“The character of a British tourist venting her frustration at a group of children has been purged from a recent reissue, while a number of references to people smiling and comments on their teeth and physiques have also been erased.”
“Sections of dialogue uttered by often unsympathetic characters within the mysteries have also been cut.”
The term ‘Oriental’ has been removed.
“… a [B]lack servant, originally described as grinning as he understands the need to stay silent about an incident [is] described as neither [B]lack nor smiling but simply as “nodding”.
In a Miss Marple novel, “the amateur detective’s musing that a West Indian hotel worker smiling at her has “such lovely white teeth: has been removed, with similar references to “beautiful teeth” also taken out.”
“The same book described a prominent female character as having ‘a torso of black marble such as a sculpture would have enjoyed’, a description absent from the edited version.”
In ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ references to “gypsies” have been removed.
“It is not the first time Christie’s works have been altered. Her 1939 novel ‘And Then There Were None’ was previously published under a different name that included a racist term.”
I had never heard the original title of Christie's book 'And Then There Were None'. That one I can understand needing a massive edit (an entirely new title).
I had a vague idea that some of the other terms have been updated in general usage but wasn't otherwise aware that some of the labels were or have come to be considered racist or pejorative.
My parents told us as kids that some of Dad's mother's family members were "gypsies". I've only fairly recently tripped over the fact that the term is now seen as pejorative.
Language naturally evolves of course but sometimes it needs prompting to speed up the process as more light and knowledge is received on the matter.
What I don't understand (please forgive my ignorance) is why references to lovely white teeth or a black torso of marble would have to be expunged. On the surface of it those seem like positive comments.
Even if it's apparently not done to describe a servant as Black any more, what's wrong with stating that they are smiling? Is that some kind of a racist observation?
I'm a bit on the fence at the moment about whether we should go back and edit literary works long after they were written. I wonder if we can't accept how and why some words and phrases (and attitudes) were part of books we otherwise admire and enjoy. And Then There Were None, for instance, is listed as the best selling crime novel of all time so its contents must have merit (although I agree that the title couldn't stand - much has changed, with good reason, since 1939).
It's just that generally it's considered that a creator's works are sacrosanct. Look at all the efforts that go into protecting copyright for instance, as well as coined phrases (in the positive sense) which are often, if not always, accompanied by credit to the originator.
So now we're protecting copyright but altering a writer's expression? I find it a bit wincey. Especially as some of the edits seem questionable (as in why is "smiling" as a descriptor apparently a negative now?).
Although perhaps there is much I have yet to come to understand.
For the record, the 'Modern Sensitivities' part of the title of my post is a quote from the article I linked above, not my assessment of the issues.
PS: I only after the fact wondered about the BoM. Excuse my ignorance again, please, but has it ever been edited? Even if so, maybe it could use a rethink and an update. A rebranding in effect. As long as we're wanting to edit old works that did or could cause offence. And, yes, I can see that in some cases that could be a very good idea.
PPS: Oh, whoosh. I forget what I came back to add. Sheesh...
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/25/2023 10:56PM by Nightingale.