Offensive Word Scrapped From French Edition Of Agatha Christie Novel

The Agatha Christie Memorial is located at the intersection of Cranbourn and Great Newport streets in London, by St Martin’s Cross near Covent Garden. (Pixabay image via Courthouse News)

PARIS (AFP) — The French translation of Agatha Christie’s mystery novel “And Then There Were None” will change its title to remove an offensive word which was already dropped from the British edition decades ago, broadcaster RTL reported Wednesday. 

The title “Dix Petits Negres,” or “Ten Little Niggers” will become “Ils Etaient Dix” or “They Were Ten,” it said, quoting the publisher. 

The decision to change the French title of one of the best-selling novels by the “Queen of Crime” was taken by her great-grandson James Prichard, who heads the company that owns the literary and media rights to Christie’s works.   

He told RTL that the book, first published in Britain in 1939 under the title “Ten Little Niggers” after a minstrel song, came from a time when such language was common. 

Not using words “that upset people,” Prichard said, “just seems to me a very sensible position to have in 2020.”

The word negre, which appeared 74 times in the French version of the book, will be replaced with the word soldat or “soldier” in the latest translation by Gerard de Cherge, said RTL. 

The book gained its current English title in Britain in the 1980s, following the example of the US edition which came out as the nonoffensive “And Then There Were None” as early as its first publication in 1940.

It has also appeared under the title “Ten Little Indians,” a racially loaded term which in itself is controversial in America nowadays.

The book has sold over 100 million copies, making it one of the best-selling novels of all time.

France, which is in the midst of a debate about alleged racism in the police and society at large, was one of the last countries to continue using the original title.

© Agence France-Presse

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