The Agatha Christie Collection: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Fighting Modern Day Censorship with The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.
Have you heard about Harper Collins’s decision to hire “Sensitivity Readers” to rework Agatha Christie’s books and remove potentially offensive language? Most of the offending words and phrases have to do with ethnicity or physical appearance. They’ve gone so far as to remove references to teeth being “white” and have watered down a secondary character’s diatribe against children. (Read more about this modern day censorship here)
If the Sensitivity Readers ever come after Ray Bradbury’s works like they came for Agatha Christie’s, he has left a strong word for them beyond the grave: “Do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book.”
It’s almost like Bradbury, the author of arguably the most famous book about censorship, knew what was coming in the 21st century. In his 1979 “Coda” to Fahrenheit 451 (which appeared in all new editions), he responded to the unsolicited and unapproved edits his works were receiving over 50 years ago. “The point is obvious,” he said. “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority…feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.” How did he react? “By ticketing the assembly of idiots to the far reaches of hell.”
Imagine if he were still here, witnessing the degutting of Agatha Christie’s books, Roald Dahl’s, Ian Fleming’s, PG Wodehouse’s…I think he’d be waving his book around, crying, “Didn’t you read my warning?!”
I think it’s very important to push against this modern trend of degutting classics to suit modern sensibilities, so here is my small contribution: On May 31st I will be releasing my own un-edited edition of Agatha Christie’s first Poirot novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (swipe). I hope to release as many of her books as I can!