James Bond novels rewritten to remove racial references

James Bond novels have been rewritten to remove a number of racial references, it has emerged, in the wake of a row over the rewriting of “offensive” sections of Roald Dahl’s back catalogue.

All of Ian Fleming’s thrillers featuring 007 are set to be reissued in April to mark the 70th anniversary of Casino Royale – the first book in the series.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, which owns the literary rights to the author’s work, commissioned a review by sensitivity readers, with a focus on how the new releases will be received by modern audiences.

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It has been reported the books will include a disclaimer, reading: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.

Sir Sean Connery as James Bond in You Only Live TwiceSir Sean Connery as James Bond in You Only Live Twice
Sir Sean Connery as James Bond in You Only Live Twice

“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 changes are reported to include the description of African men involved in the gold and diamond trades in Live and Let Die as being “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much”.

The new version will simply read “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought”.

Another section describes Bond visiting a strip tease club in the Harlem area of New York, where Fleming wrote: “Bond could hear the audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough.”

The revised version reads: “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room.”

The word “n****r”, which was used a number of times by Fleming while writing in the 1950s and 1960s, has also been cut from the new editions.

Last week, Penguin Random House announced it would re-release a number of Roald Dahl books in their original form following controversy over their reworking by sensitivity readers.

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The Roald Dahl Story Company and Puffin Books carried out a review of a number of classics by the author, with a number references to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race changed or removed.

However, Sir Salman Rushdie was among the literary figures who led a backlash against the move, describing it as “censorship”.

A spokesperson for 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 authorised.

“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.”

​Rishi Sunak had also condemned the rewriting of Dahl's books. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "When it comes to our rich and varied literary heritage, the Prime Minister agrees with the BFG that we shouldn't gobblefunk around with words."

The official added: "I think it's important that works of literature and works of fiction are preserved and not airbrushed. We have always defended the right to free speech and expression."

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