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26.08.2020 Europe

'N-word' scrapped from French edition of Agatha Christie novel

By RFI
© AFP/Jack Taylor
LISTEN AUG 26, 2020
© AFP/Jack Taylor

The French translation of Agatha Christie's mystery novel "And Then There Were None" will have its title changed to remove the term 'Nègres' which was dropped from the English-language edition decades ago.

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.

The French title Dix Petits Nègres, or "Ten Little Niggers" will now become Ils Etaient Dix or "They Were Ten".

Not using words "that upset people", Prichard told RTL radio on Wednesday,  "just seems to me a very sensible position to have in 2020."

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," he said.

The word "nègre" 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 Gérard de Chergé, 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 non-offensive And Then There Were None as early as its first publication in 1940.

The book has also appeared under the title Ten Little Indians, a racially-loaded term which in itself is controversial in contemporary America.

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.

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