James Bond novels are latest books to face rewriting as 'censorship' debate rages
The James Bond spy novels have become the latest works of popular fiction to be revised to accommodate 21st-century sensibilities.
Ian Fleming's popular espionage books will join other popular fiction to be amended over concerns some text and passages, including ones regarded as being sexist or racist, are not appropriate for readers today.
But it has also kicked off a fierce debate in the literary world, with some critics describing the move as "woke censorship".
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The Bond thrillers – from 1953's Casino Royale to 1966's Octopussy and The Living Daylights – will be re-released in April to coincide with the books' 70th anniversary.
But they'll be without some racist language and ethnic references.
The changes were to be made after a review commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate.
The revised Bond novels will also include a 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."
Fleming died in 1964.
The announcement came after the series of popular Roald Dahl children's books recently underwent a similar review.
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Bruce Isaacs, a film and modern culture scholar at the University of Sydney, told 9News.com.au he thought it was "incredibly dangerous" to change existing text.
"I was stunned to read about Roald Dahl … it is tantamount to a form of censorship."
Last month The Telegraph reported that current editions of Dahl's books – which include classics such as Matilda, The BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – published by Puffin had been revised and edited by an organisation called Inclusive Minds.
Language relating to gender, race, weight, mental health and violence had all been cut or revised, including the removal of words like "fat" and "ugly," and descriptions using the colours black and white.
Dahl died in 1990.
Isaacs said while it was important to protect children from negative influences, some older fiction could help today's readers understand issues of the past that pervade society now.
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But others believe some changes, or 'updates', are part of the evolution of literature.
Australian children's author Andy Griffiths wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald that "children's books are not sacred texts".
He said removing parts of text that may cause offence to today's readers was part of the editing and publishing process.
"Words that might reasonably be predicted to upset or offend sections of the audience are, in most cases, better off being replaced [unless, of course, your intention is to deliberately upset and offend]."
He said rewriting usually finishes after a book has been published, "but in the case of books that have outlived the times in which they were written I think an argument for a sensitive consideration of whether the word-choice matches current sensitivities is justified."
Griffiths believed writers and publishers had a duty to be attuned to feelings in today's society.
"As we gain greater awareness and sensitivity towards all the different groups and types of people that make up our society, it's entirely appropriate that we cast a sensitive ear to the words we use to speak to each other both in everyday life and in books for children."
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But Isaacs points to the rewriting of other fiction such as the children's books by Enid Blyton and is concerned the publishing industry is embarking on a slippery path to a form of censorship.
He said George Orwell's novel, 1984, set in a dystopian world of a totalitarian world government showed the importance of language.
Authorities create "Newspeak", a language created to slowly replace English, with words and phrases omitted every year.
"George Orwell knew about the danger of changing text and language … in 1984 he showed how if you control language, you can control society."
– With CNN