Among only a few iconic characters in the history of literature and film, James Bond stands astride the cultural landscape like a handsome, outwardly charming, potentially deadly, action-spy colossus.
Bond-creator Ian Fleming – himself having acquired a U.K. spy background – wrote 12 Bond novels and nine short stories, beginning in 1953, and numerous other authors such as Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, and Jeffrey Deaver have carried the “double-oh” torch since that time. Those subsequent Bond Bounders took different approaches to story length and time period, as well as infusing their own slightly distinct takes on Bond’s “licensed to kill” character.
But readers knew what were Fleming’s works and what were “licensed to thrill” thrillers that had been licensed by the holders of Mr. Fleming estate.
Now, a week after many people were chagrined to discover that Penguin Random House unscrupulously decided to rewrite Roald Dahl’s novels and still call them Dahl’s work, Ian Fleming Publications, Ltd are sanitizing the original Bond tales, to, perhaps, turn them into literature that the operators of the estate must think is more “palatable” for the “woke.”
“Sensitivity readers have edited the classic James Bond series, rewriting racially insensitive or racist references, including instances of the n-word, from the 1950s and 1960s books after Ian Fleming Publications commissioned a review ahead of the 70th anniversary of ‘Casino Royale's’ release.”
Genius. What better way to celebrate the release of a classic novel, than to REWRITE IT and put it out under the same title? That’s respect, right there…
As The Telegraph notes, the “special celebration” of Fleming’s debut Bond book likely will contain just a laughable, sad prefatory note ahead of the NewSpeak Edition that will assault the eyes and the honor of readers:
"This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace."
It would be one thing – a much more acceptable thing – to see that disclaimer/warning in front of an UNCHANGED text. But the postmodernist publishing pencil-pushers out there clearly know better than we do, and they are ready to act in the “service” of our protection.
Thus, writes Penley:
“One revamped scene includes a rewrite from ‘Live and Let Die’ in which the original line referring to Africans reads that they are ‘pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much’ is rewritten to say, ‘pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.’"
As I noted with my previous pieces about Penguin Random House rewriting Roald Dahl’s magically crafted novels, stripping them of the very wit he worked so hard to include, these literary “massage therapists” are not, in any way, engaging in the traditional “editorial” relationship with an author.
Because the author is dead, and the final versions of his tales long have been established, based on his consent. This is dissection and mutation. It’s the literary equivalent of gain-of-function viral experimentation. And it is not respectful to the reader, to the author, or to his work.
“Other lines are rephrased, cut or condensed in similar fashion.
The n-word was largely replaced by ‘black man’ or ‘black person,’ according to the Telegraph.”
But the Telegraph does note that the new “Anniversary Edition” of “Casino Royale" will preserve some controversial phrases and terms, including lingo such as "sweet tang of rape," and "blithering women" failing to do a "man’s work," as well as the Bond observation that homosexuality is a "stubborn disability."
Curiously, the idea of keeping the text complete, in the form that the author and editors agreed it should be presented, seems beyond the capacity of the new crop who control Fleming’s estate.
They appear to think they have a “license” to kill originality, original meaning, and original intent, even as they “celebrate” the very thing they are changing.
Manipulation such as this seems more appropriate for real spies – those “state agents” who lied and cheated and stole and killed thanks to the permission of the government. And – again, curiously – the Ian Fleming Publications, Ltd, gang seem strangely selective about their wokeism.
Evidently, they have no problem publishing stories that celebrate a spy whom the Queen has “licensed” to murder people. He just shouldn’t insult them or use “Wrong-Speak” when doing so. Because, of course, that would be akin do the ever-permutating, always-swindling contemporary bon mot of a “hate crime.”
Fox News attempted to contact the Fleming Publications team, but, as of this writing, has not received any comment from them.
Which leaves many of us thinking that we’d better get our hands on the original texts of both the Bond novels and the Dahl books if we want to enjoy them as originally written and if we want to respect the authors.
In a way, there is a strange kind of symmetry in the news about the two men and their work. In fact, both not only were British spies who worked to shape public opinion about the need for US involvement in World War Two, they were friends, and helped inspire each other.
Fleming once said of Dalh’s work:
“My stuff is nothing, despicable stuff, but yours is literature.”
But both writers not only produced amazing tales, they told them beautifully.
The idea that the holders of the Fleming fiction library would want to change the Bond books into tepid, watered-down versions stands contrary to everything the tough, suave, sometimes brutal, character represented. It’s as if these censors stepped out of a Bond book, or jumped out of one of Dahl's alternate realities.
But they exist and are keen on wiping away history, even as they destroy the work of people who are no longer here to defend their artistic output.
Perhaps that defense is up to us, and to new authors who will stand tall for the integrity of their own work.
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