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26th Mar 2023

Agatha Christie books rewritten for modern sensitivities

Charlie Herbert

Agatha Christie books altered

A number of Agatha Christie books, including Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries, have been rewritten to remove racist terms and alter passages of text.

The best-selling author of all time, Christie’s books have been amended to in new editions published by HarperCollins to make them more suitable for modern audiences.

Some passages from the original texts have been altered or even completely scrapped to remove descriptions, insults or references to ethnicity, particularly for characters in the books not from the UK, the Telegraph reports.

The amended editions were either released in 2020 or are set to be released. It is reported that HarperCollins used the services of sensitivity readers to decide what should be changed in these new editions.

Some of the works’ vocabulary has been changed. For example, the term “oriental” has been removed along with other racial descriptors.

In the 1937 Poirot novel Death on the Nile, a passage describes a Black servant as grinning because he understands the need to stay silent about an incident. The new editions no longer point out that he is Black or smiling and instead state that he is simply “nodding”.

The inner monologues of characters such as Miss Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot have also been edited.

In a new edition of the Miss Marple novel A Caribbean Mystery (1964), the narrator praises a West Indian hotel worker’s “lovely white teeth”. This has now been removed, along with similar references to “beautiful teeth”.

The same book also used to include a description of a female character with “a torse of black marble such as a sculptor would have enjoyed”. This has now been cut, along with a passage in which a character fails to see a Black woman in the bushes at night.

Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and a billion in translation (Getty)

There are also several example of the N-word being used in Christie’s novels, both in her prose and the dialogue of the characters. The word has been removed from new editions.

Also in Death on the Nile, references to the Nubian people have been removed. For example, “the Nubian boatman” is simply referred to as “the boatman” now.

Christie’s 1920 debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles has been amended such that Poirot’s comment that another character is “a Jew, of course” no longer appears.

A young woman described as being “of gypsy type” is now only referred to as “a young woman”.

In the original 1979 short story collection Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories, Christie wrote of an judge with “his Indian temper”. This now reads “his temper”.

References to “natives” have either been replaced with the term “locals” or removed completely.

This is not the first time that Christie’s work has been changed to remove offensive terms. Arguably her most famous mystery, And Then There Were None, was originally released under a title that included a racial slur.

Earlier this year, it was announced that some of Roald Dahl’s works would be altered to ensure that Dahl’s books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today.”

Words such as “fat,” “ugly,” and “mad” were removed by publisher Puffin from new editions, along with other examples of potentially offensive language and derogatory words about appearance.

Puffin later announced that it would be releasing a ‘Roald Dahl Classic Collection’ – made up of 17 titles – that would feature none of these alterations.

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