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Agatha Christie Novels Edited to Cut ‘Offensive’ Language

Agatha Christie novels
Photograph of the English novelist Agatha Christie (1890–1976), taken at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. Credit: Joop van Bilsen / Anefo, CC0/Wikipedia

Several novels by Agatha Christie have become the most recent works of literature to be edited to remove racist references and language that may be offensive to modern-day readers.

HarperCollins has edited — and in some cases scrapped entire passages — from new editions of Christie’s beloved detective novels, Poirot and Miss Marple, the Telegraph reported.

New editions drop references to ethnicity, such as describing a character as black, Jewish or “Oriental.”

A female character’s torso that was once described as being made “of black marble” and a judge’s “Indian temper” were also cut — as were references to gypsies and “natives.”

N-word has also been completely removed

The N-word has also been completely removed from the revised editions in both Christie’s prose and in the dialogue spoken by her characters.

The changes come after several classic works of literature, including children’s books by Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, have recently been cleansed by “sensitivity readers.”

HarperCollins also enlisted the help of sensitivity readers to produce new editions of the entire Miss Marple series and select Poirot novels, which were written between 1920 and 1976, the year of Christie’s death.

Some of the reworked editions were released in 2020, though HarperCollins plans to release more in the future, according to the Telegraph.

Much of Christie’s own narration, including the inner monologues of Miss Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot, has been altered, and sections of dialogue that depict unsympathetic characters have been cut in the reworked versions.

In old editions of the 1937 Poirot novel “Death on the Nile,” the character Mrs. Allerton complains about a group of children who “come back and stare, and stare, and their eyes are simply disgusting, and so are their noses, and I don’t believe I really like children.”

However, in the new editions, Mrs. Allerton simply states: “They come back and stare, and stare. And I don’t believe I really like children.”

The new edition of the 1964 Miss Marple novel “A Caribbean Mystery” excludes old descriptions of a West Indian hotel worker who smiled with “such lovely white teeth.” Similar references to “beautiful teeth” were also scrapped.

In the same novel, an entire passage where a character cannot see a black woman in some bushes at night has been removed as well.

References in Christie’s 1920 debut novel “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” to a character who is “a Jew, of course,” have been removed completely. In the new editions, Poirot makes no such comment.

Agatha Christie’s novels edited in France

This is not the first time that the detective novels of the English writer have been edited. In 2020, the French translation of Agatha Christie’s hit novel “And Then There Were None” changed its title to remove a racially-charged word already dropped from the British edition decades ago.

The title “Dix Petits Negres”, or “Ten Little Niggers”, became “Ils Etaient Dix” or “They Were Ten”.

The decision to change the French title of one of the best-selling books by the “Queen of Crime” was taken by her great-grandson James Prichard, who heads the company that owns the rights to Christie’s works.

Prichard told the RTL broadcaster that the book, first published in Britain in 1939, took its title “Ten Little Niggers” from a minstrel song dating back to a time when such language was common.

Not using words “that upset people”, Prichard said, “just seems to me a very sensible position to have in 2020”.

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