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James Bond books edited to remove racist references

Reissued versions of Ian Fleming’s classic works will feature a disclaimer following a review by sensitivity readers


Sir Roger Moore as James Bond in Live and Let Die, one of the novels which has been scrutinised by sensitivity readers CREDIT: Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images


After the Roald Dahl text editing controversy that erupted in recent days, it is now the turn of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels to be rewritten.


A report in U.K. newspaper The Telegraph reveals that ahead of the reissue of the Bond novels in April to mark 70 years of “Casino Royale,” the first book in the series, rights holders Ian Fleming Publications Ltd commissioned a review by sensitivity readers.


Each book will carry the 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,” The Telegraph said.


A commonly used pejorative term used for Black people by Fleming, whose Bond books were published between 1951 and 1966, has been removed almost entirely and replaced with “Black person” or “Black man.” In other instances, references have been edited.


For example, in “Live and Let Die” (1954), Bond’s opinion of Africans in the gold and diamond trades as “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much” has been altered to “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.”


Another scene in the book, set during a strip tease at a Harlem nightclub, was originally “Bond could hear the audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough. He felt his own hands gripping the tablecloth. His mouth was dry.” This has been revised to “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room.” A segment in the book describing accented dialogue as “straight Harlem-Deep South with a lot of New York thrown in,” has been removed.


In several of the books, including “Thunderball” (1961), “Quantum of Solace” (1960) and “Goldfinger” (1959), ethnicities have been removed. The edits to the U.S. edition of “Live and Let Die” were authorized by Fleming himself. Fleming died in 1964.


Ian Fleming Publications told The Telegraph: “We at Ian Fleming Publications 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 in April.”


The James Bond films are one of the most successful franchises of all time, grossing a combined $7.8 billion. The last film “No Time to Die,” which released in 2021, marked the retirement of Daniel Craig from the role.

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