Agatha Christie Novels Edited to Remove Racist Language
Several Agatha Christie novels have been edited to remove racist language. Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries written between 1920 and 1976 are among those with new editions with words and descriptions amended to strip them of offensive language, particularly passages that involve characters portrayed outside the U.K.
Per The Guardian, sensitivity readers made the edits for the digital and new editions of the entire Miss Marple series. They selected Poirot novels that are set to be released or have been released since 2020 via HarperCollins.
Among the edits were those that described characters as Black, Jewish, or Gypsy. Derogatory descriptions of characters have been cut, along with racist language, including the O-word and the N-word. The term “natives” has been replaced with “local.”
An example of one of the changes that have been made in the 1937 Poirot novel Death of the Nile pertains to the character Mrs. Allerton’s description of a group of children who are pestering her, saying “their eyes are simply disgusting, and so are their noses”; the description has been removed.
The Christie reworkings follow recently edited books by Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming to remove offensive language about gender and race in a bid to make them more inclusive. Like the Christie edits, Dahl and Fleming’s new editions employed sensitivity readers.
Dahl’s literary estate approved the changes, which included changing the description of Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from “fat” to “enormous” and replacing the word “female” throughout Matilda with “woman.” Following accusations of censorship from free speech groups and writer’s organization PEN America over the decision to update Dahl’s children’s books with less offensive language, publisher Puffin and its parent company Penguin Random House U.K. said they would also release “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection,” which will feature 17 stories with Dahl’s original text.
Fleming’s Bond books have been scrubbed for racist and stereotypical language. For example, with Live and Let Die, the N-word was replaced with “Black person” or “Black man.” Not all of the derogatory language was expunged: Disparaging remarks about the Korean henchman Oddjob remain, as does calling homosexuality a “stubborn disability,” as The Telegraph noted.