The literary tales of Agent 007 are being reworked to better accommodate the sensitivities of modern audiences, The Telegraph reported on Saturday. To mark the 70th anniversary of ‘Casino Royale’ – Ian Fleming’s first novel featuring James Bond – the company that owns the rights to the texts has reportedly commissioned so-called ‘sensitivity readers’ to review the classic thrillers.
According to The Telegraph, all of Fleming’s novels are set to be reissued in April to celebrate the anniversary. However, the new versions of the texts will feature a number of editorial changes. All of the books will now reportedly be accompanied by a disclaimer that reads: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.”
The note goes on to state that “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 in question mainly have to do with depictions of black people, according to the paper. While dated terms for other ethnicities and out-of-date remarks about women and gay people remain, some depictions of black people by the character have been “reworked or removed.”
In one example noted by The Telegraph, the sensitivity reader-approved version of ‘Live and Let Die’, has altered Bond’s assessment of African criminals in the gold and diamond trades. Originally, he stated that they were “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much.” Now, the sentence just reads “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.”
Another passage that read “Bond could hear the audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough” when describing a nightclub in Harlem, has now been changed to “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room.”
Fleming’s novels, which were mostly written during the 1950s and 1960s, also originally featured a number of references to black people as “negroes.” This word has been almost entirely expunged from the revised texts.
The news comes after publisher Penguin Random House attempted to remove “offensive language” from the works of late Roald Dahl – the author behind ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Matilda’, and other books. The decision was met with public outrage last week, and the publisher announced they would release both the original versions of the books as well as the updated ones that contain altered sections related to the weight, appearance, race or genders of characters.