British author Ian Fleming's James Bond novels are set to be reissued for the 70th anniversary of the book series, removing and altering terms and references that might be offensive today. This was confirmed by the company Ian Fleming Publications, which is owned by Fleming's descendants and manages the rights to the novels and short stories about secret agent 007. The "Telegraph" had previously reported on the controversial adjustments.
Dealing with racist words
Ian Fleming Publications (IFP) announced that "some racist words which are now likely to cause great offense" have been changed, "keeping as close to the original text and time as possible." The books of the new edition should also contain the warning that the novels were written in a time when some concepts and attitudes that could be found problematic today were commonplace.
The changes are not only controversial among "James Bond" fans. Fleming biographer Andrew Lycett was also critical. "It's never a good thing to change what an author has written. It smacks of censorship," Lycett wrote in The Independent. Certain passages in the "James Bond" novels no longer seem contemporary. "Nevertheless, I firmly believe that what an author puts on paper is sacrosanct and should not be altered. It is a testament to the attitudes of the author - and of society - at any given moment, whether it's Shakespeare, Dickens or Ian Fleming is."
Ian Fleming Publications said the changes were based on the US edition of the 1954 novel Live And Let Die. Fleming himself agreed to changes for the American publication at the time because some terms in the novel "were already problematic in America in the mid-1950s". The other books are now also based on this model. A few remained entirely unchanged, including Ian Fleming's 007 debut "Casino Royale" from 1953.
Previously there had been discussions about changes to children's books by Roald Dahl. The responsible publisher finally announced that it would also publish an unmodified edition of the classics. Lycett also suspects financial motives for the publishers. Time is running out for Ian Fleming Publications. In 2034, 70 years after author Fleming's death, the copyright expires. Then "James Bond" goes into the public domain and anyone can publish the novels in any modified form.