James Bond Text Clipped By ‘Sensitivity Readers’

The literary world and ordinary readers have been rocked by recent news that publishers have commissioned “sensitivity readers” to scrub “offensive content” from classic books written for children and adults. The most recent examples include Roald Dahl’s works and Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

In the case of Ian Fleming’s books, the sensitive revisions are in response to the author’s use of
“racially offensive language” in his writing during the 1950s and 1960s. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the publication of “Casino Royale” – the first novel in the 007 franchise – Fleming’s James Bond books are scheduled to be reissued in April.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, who owns the literary rights to Fleming’s works, commissioned a team of sensitivity readers to go through the James Bond novels and scrub any offensive content before republication.

Descriptions of black characters and other racial slurs will be removed, and the rewritten text will feature 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. 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.”

Roald Dahl’s books have also undergone numerous changes that significantly alter the original text. For instance, the publishers changed a mention of Rudyard Kipling to Jane Austen in “Matilda.” In addition, they removed references to weight, mental health, violence, gender, and race that the sensitivity readers deemed offensive. Illustrations accompanying the books were also altered to reflect modern sensibilities.

While Dahl’s allegedly antisemitic comments have been acknowledged and addressed, the recent edits to his work were unrelated to the objections raised in previous years. Dahl’s family apologized for his prejudiced remarks in 2020. Still, publishers have now taken it upon themselves to sanitize his books further to reflect “modern values.”

Some argue that scrubbing classic books represents an erosion of freedom of expression. In addition, critics claim that the revisions rob the works of originality and historical context, turning them into sanitized, politically correct versions of the originals.

Modern censors argue that the changes are necessary to update works that contain offensive content that can damage young readers. In addition, with increasing awareness of the importance of diverse and inclusive representation, publishers are under pressure from “woke” activists to ensure that their works do not perpetuate harmful stereotypes.