Agatha Christie’s detective novels have been censored by “sensitivity readers” ahead of their reissue, The Telegraph reported on Saturday. Christie is the latest author after Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming to have their works posthumously cleaned up for a modern audience.
The changes were made to new editions of Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple detective novels, which are set to be released or have been released since 2020. Citing industry insiders, The Telegraph claimed that publisher HarperCollins hired a team of “sensitivity readers” to pore over Christie’s 1927-1976 catalog in search of outdated terms.
Most of the changes reportedly concern descriptions of non-British characters and insults based on characters’ appearance.
The term “Oriental” has been removed from the 1937 Poirot novel ‘Death on the Nile’. So too has the word "Nubian," used to describe an indigenous group native to southern Egypt. The word “native” too has been removed from several Christie novels, replaced with “local.”
In the 1964 Miss Marple novel ‘A Caribbean Mystery’, an entire passage describing a black woman hiding in bushes at night has been removed, as has a description of a female character as having “a torso of black marble.”
The word “n***er” has been completely cut from Christie's books, while Poirot’s observation in ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ that another character is “a Jew, of course” has likewise been dropped. The character of Mrs. Allerton in ‘Death on the Nile’ no longer says of a group of children that “their eyes are simply disgusting, and so are their noses,” and Miss Marple herself no longer marvels at the “lovely white teeth” of a black hotel worker in ‘A Caribbean Mystery’.
HarperCollins made similar changes to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, which are set for re-release this year. However, not all of Fleming’s potentially offensive phrasing was cut from the Bond series, and the reissued books reportedly still include some outdated descriptions of women and gay people.
HarperCollins is not the only publisher giving classic books a politically-correct makeover. Penguin Random House caused outrage when it announced last month that hundreds of changes – including the removal of terms such as “fat” and “ugly” – had been made to Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s stories. Amid a public backlash, the publisher decided to reissue the books in both edited and unedited versions.