So now Agatha Christie is being revised for the contemporary reader who no longer wants to endure ethnic stereotypes, jokes about Jewish names and noses, or embarrassing descriptions. So-called “sensitivity readers”, reports the London “Telegraph”, have adopted Christie's language for new editions of the cases of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
Thus, in 1964's "Caribbean Affair," Miss Marple's musings on a hotel clerk's "wonderful white teeth" are eliminated. And in Christie's debut novel, The Missing Link, published in 1920, Hercule Poirot's comment that someone was "a Jew, of course" was deleted.
Of course, all of this is highly questionable. Why not ask readers to read the original texts, trusting that they will make up their own minds about the limitations of a crime writer who died 47 years ago at 85? Isn't it a falsification when characters in a novel, whose inner monologues throb with perceptions that no one would allow themselves today, now appear as if they had undergone anti-discrimination training?
And where is this supposed to lead - will we at some point no longer be able to determine that authors such as Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl or Ian Fleming thought racist, anti-Semitic or sexist because one can no longer prove it with their work, which has been cleaned of all irritations?
In Christie's case, the interventions in her texts have a special touch. After all, her work was toned down for sensitive readers while she was still alive. After World War II, her American publisher received letters about racial stereotypes in her work, including one from the influential Anti-Defamation League.
Her agent did not pass the letters on to her, leaving the publisher to remove any potentially objectionable passages about Jews or Catholics. She never noticed the changes that were made.