Racist wording will be edited out of reissued James Bond books

New versions of Ian Fleming’s novels are to feature a disclaimer warning of controversial phrases, while explicitly racist terms will be scrapped

Ian Lancaster Fleming, the best-selling British author and creator of fictional secret agent James Bond, 1962 (AP Photo/File)
Ian Lancaster Fleming, the best-selling British author and creator of fictional secret agent James Bond, 1962 (AP Photo/File)

Racist language is to be removed and warnings are reportedly to be added to Ian Fleming’s classic James Bond novels ahead of the reissue of the series in April to mark 70 years since the publication of “Casino Royale,” the first book about the spy.

The changes were to be made after a review was commissioned by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.

According to a report in The Telegraph cited by Variety magazine, each of Fleming’s Bond books will now 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.”

Racist terms have been removed almost entirely and replaced with “Black person” or “Black man,” the report said, without clarifying which terms have remained in the books.

Variety magazine provided another example of implied racism from the “Live and Let Die” novel, where Bond described African men in the gold and diamond trades as “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much,” which has now been amended to “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.”

Another scene set during a strip show at a Harlem nightclub was originally written in the following manner: “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 was revised to “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room.”

Writer Ian Fleming, left, with actor Sean Connery during the filming of “From Russia with Love” on August 12, 1964. (AP Photo)

Accented dialogue described originally as “straight Harlem-Deep South with a lot of New York thrown in” has also been removed, the magazine said.

Ian Fleming Publications released a statement to The Telegraph saying: “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 statement read.

The changes come days after Publisher Puffin UK announced it would release the original versions of Roald Dahl’s children’s novels to keep the “classic texts in print” following a wave of criticism over their re-editing for a modern audience.

Like Dahl, Fleming is widely regarded to have been antisemitic.

AFP contributed to this report.

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