Conrad and the N-Word

bowdlerized shakespeare

A few years ago, I quoted from an article about a woman who wanted to ban “To Kill a Mockingbird”:

“She acknowledged she hadn’t read the entire book, but strongly felt if it had the word “nigger” in it, it shouldn’t be used in schools.”

Obviously, the woman didn’t read enough to know that the book is as strong a commentary against prejudice as any on the shelves. But whatever. People are stupid and I’m not going to change that.

The point is that I shouldn’t be surprised about the new edition of a Joseph Conrad book. The original is titled:

The Nigger of the Narcissus

The new edition, and I’m not joking, is called: “The N-word of the Narcissus.” And throughout the book, wherever the word “nigger” was used, the publisher has replaced it with “n-word”.

I never read the story. I assume I’d like it as little as I like the rest of his stories. But I also assume that it’s about a person, rather than a word. Changing the title in that way (besides attempting to alter and sanitize history) changes the focus to the WORD. It makes it seem as the though the book is about a WORD from the Narcissus. Which simply highlights the word more than it would have been highlighted if they’d just left it alone.

Frankly, my guess is that the publishers really aren’t trying to make the world a better place (in however an idiotic way this is), but instead are counting on the publicity to sell more books. I hope they fail.

[Incidentally, I also hope they fail because their stupid web site forces an ad for their stupid facebook site in a way that covers up part of the page and can’t be dismissed.]

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