James Bond books to be censored

Cultural revolution in the West

Published 28 February 2023
- By Editorial Staff
James Bond - too sensitive for modern readers?

The other week, news broke that books by author Roald Dahl will henceforth be censored with regard to “sensitive words”. Now it’s time for one of the most iconic characters of the 20th century – James Bond, Agent 007.

James Bond turns 70. It was in 1953 that Ian Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale, saw the light of day and took the spy-thriller genre by storm. This year’s anniversary celebrations include a re-release of all 14 books. But with one reservation.

In time for the re-release, the books have undergone a thorough review by British so-called emotional readers (see below). In collaboration with the publisher, they have concluded that much of what Ian Fleming originally wrote is unsuitable for today’s readers.

The reissue will therefore be with more or less modified text. Single words, longer passages and whole sentences are deleted in whole or in part. A justification for the new editions is also expected to read: ‘This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes that might be considered offensive by today’s readers were common“.

An example of revised passages seen by TNT is from Fleming’s second novel Live and Let Die from 1954, in which Bond comments on African potential criminals being “pretty law-abiding chaps I should think, except when they’ve had too much to drink”, which has now been changed to “pretty law-abiding chaps I should think”. Gone, then, is the reference to drinking habits.

Proponents of emotional readers claim that “the literary quality of a work is greatly enhanced” when it is reviewed and edited by others from “a specific nation or society about which the author is writing”.

Helen Wicks, managing director of children’s publishing at Bonnier, is one of those who defend the use of readers.

We believe that emoticons can play an important role in inclusive and forward-looking publishing, says Wicks.

Critics, on the other hand, accuse emotion readers of being “new moral gatekeepers”. Psychology professor and commentator Jordan Peterson is one of those who strongly criticize the phenomenon as Orwellian.


Authors Anthony Horowitz and Kate Clanchy have also both expressed harsh criticism of the phenomenon’s impact on their books, with Clanchy going so far as to eventually break with publisher Picador altogether after controversy over her own memoirs.

Eon Productions and its management duo Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli – who produce the James Bond films – have so far chosen not to comment on the re-publication.

Ian Lancaster Fleming, born 28 May 1908 in London, died 12 August 1964 in Kent, was an English journalist and author best known for creating James Bond. There were twelve novels and two collections of short stories about the world-famous MI6 agent.

Sensitivity reader is a new term used to describe the task of scrutinizing (mainly) literary works for perceived offensive content, stereotypes and prejudices. If found, a report is made to the author or publisher with suggestions for changes.

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