The madness of rewriting or reworking literature continues

Agatha Christie classics latest to be rewritten for modern sensitivities

Preceding, I expressed already my disgust bout the wordbanning which is going on, and what I came to read in re-edited books by Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming.

Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries now seem to be next on the list of publishers, taking the liberty to muddle with texts without consultation with the original writers or authors. The English detective novelist and playwright whose books have sold more than 100 million copies and have been translated into some 100 languages, without being asked, got words scrapped and changed in her work.

Agatha Christie, in full Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, née Miller who died January 12, 1976, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, would probably turn in her grave.

One of the Big Five English-language publishing companies, HarperCollins, saw no bones about taking on that well-known author and has original passages reworked or removed in new editions of the Agatha Christie mysteries

What happened now may frightening us to see what is going to happen next to other authors published originally by Harper including Mark Twain, the Brontë sisters, William Makepeace Thackeray,  H. G. Wells and the recent case Agatha Christie. In her books, the character of a British tourist venting her frustration at a group of children has been purged from a recent reissue, while a number of references to people smiling and comments on their teeth and physiques, have also been erased.

Digital versions of new editions seen by The Telegraph include scores of changes to texts written from 1920 to 1976, stripping them of numerous passages containing descriptions, insults or references to ethnicity, particularly for characters Christie’s protagonists encounter outside the UK.

The author’s own narration, often through the inner monologue of Miss Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot, has been altered in many instances. Sections of dialogue uttered by often unsympathetic characters within the mysteries have also been cut.

Death on the Nile First Edition Cover 1937.jpg

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition

In the 1937 Poirot novel Death on the Nile, the character of Mrs Allerton complains that a group of children are pestering her, saying that

“they 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”.

This has been stripped down in a new edition to state:

“They come back and stare, and stare. And I don’t believe I really like children”.

It does seem to have become a habit to gloss over typical character traits of characters so as not to appear offensive, but in doing so, one takes away many of the work’s captivating elements or attractive sensibilities.

Vocabulary has also been altered, with the term “Oriental” removed. Other descriptions have been altered in some instances, with a black servant, originally described as grinning as he understands the need to stay silent about an incident, described as neither black nor smiling but simply as “nodding”.

E R Punshon of The Guardian in his review of 10 December 1937 began by saying,

“To decide whether a writer of fiction possesses the true novelist’s gift it is often a good plan to consider whether the minor characters in his or her book, those to whose creation the author has probably given little thought, stand out in the narrative in their own right as living personalities. This test is one Mrs Christie always passes successfully, and never more so than in her new book.”

Now the little characters are minimalised and receive nearly no thought, so one could say the snatched writer of fiction possesses no true novelist’s gift anymore.

To me there are very strange choices made, I do not see the use or benefit of the change, like

“such lovely white teeth”


“beautiful teeth”

being removed, as one may not describe external features of someone because that would be racist or sexist.

In the same “woke” way, you shall not find any reference now to the Nubian people – the ethnic group indigenous to the region which is now northern Sudan and southern Egypt and has lived there for millennia –

  “the Nubian boatman”

has now become simply

“the boatman”.

So it goes so far in this world that one can no longer even give reference to peoples or use certain groups of people’s names.

But apparently one has to pay very hard attention these days to how one is going to look at someone and want to describe them.

A Caribbean Mystery First Edition Cover 1964.jpg

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition of the detective fiction by British writer Agatha Christie

In A Caribbean Mystery, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 16 November 1964, a prominent female character as having what I find a nice description

“a torso of black marble such as a sculptor would have enjoyed”,

is now missing from the edited version.

American cover of «The Mysterious Affair at Styles».png

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the first detective novel by British writer Agatha Christie, introducing her fictional detective Hercule Poirot.

What may prove evident to a character may not now be articulated. Where Poirot once noted in Christie’s 1920 debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, that another character is

“a Jew, of course”,

he now makes no such comment.

In the same book, a young woman described as being

“of gypsy type”

is now simply

“a young woman”,

and other references to gypsies have been removed from the text.

Miss Marple's Final Cases First Edition Cover 1979.jpg

Dust-jacket illustration of a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by Collins Crime Club in October 1979

The 1979 collection Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories includes the character of an Indian judge who grows angry demanding his breakfast in the original text with

“his Indian temper”,

a phrase now changed to say

“his temper”.

It may look at all small details that do not matter, but it are just those little notifications or descriptions that might make a book ore interesting or pleasant to read giving us a vivid picture of the different characters.

References to “natives” have also been removed or replaced with the word “local”. In which I strongly wonder what can be wrong with someone who has lived somewhere from the beginning and so may be regarded as a resident or native, this versus a local resident or someone living outside the region.

Across the revised books, racial descriptions have been altered or removed, including, in A Caribbean Mystery, an entire passage where a character fails to see a black woman in some bushes at night as he walks to his hotel room.

The word “n—–” has been taken out of revised edition, both in Christie’s prose and the dialogue spoken by her characters.

In Belgium and the Netherlands we know “Tien kleine negertjes” or “Ten Little Niggers” as was the original title of the novel Ten Little Niggers, Agatha Christie’s best-selling book. The book was initially published in the United Kingdom by Collins Crime Club publishers on 6 November 1939 under that tittle but got published in December the same year in the United States under the title And Then There Were None, because “neger” or “niger” a word we used in normal language without thinking something negatives, considered insulting or racist overthere.

I wonder why Agatha Christie Limited, a company run by the author’s great grandson James Prichard, lets this all happen. Is it because they think the copyright shall run out on her work in 2047, 70 years after her death. It is true that, in a certain way, at that point, everyone could pitch in with their own adaptations. As such Mr Prichard has raised the danger of “saturation”.

“There will,”

he muses,

“be a lot of very different adaptations, some of which I imagine will be brilliant and some of which will be less brilliant.”

We can only hope that no tinkers will go to work on the many past writers’ masterpieces, stripping them of their sublimity forever and thus destroying them.


Find also to read

  1. Word banning
  2. Why censoring Roald Dahl is a dangerous step
  3. What about irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text
  4. Absurdity of present “woke” rage: The rewriting of Dahl
  5. Some Conversations Just NEED To Happen
  6. New term names at London School of Economics
  7. Not liked or Hated Questions
  8. How far does this “Woke” world wants to go
  9. Wokeness wars
  10. Why Woke? When Will it Wander Away?

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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4 Responses to The madness of rewriting or reworking literature continues

  1. Pingback: Sunday 2023 March 26 Frontpage – Some View on the World

  2. It is getting out of hand.


  3. Pingback: Our woke culture and the censor’s red pen – Some View on the World

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