Anger over Agatha Christie books being edited by sensitivity readers in 'woke rewrite'

Hercule Poirot scowling.
Poirot has become the latest to fall foul of sensitivity readers. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Agatha Christie books have become the latest to be edited by sensitivity readers to remove what now is considered by some to be culturally offensive language and insults.

The books, which were written between 1920 and 1976, have been reworked by publisher HarperCollins following similar changes to books by Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming.

But there are unhappy reactions with the news with some claiming it is a "woke rewrite" and "insanity".

Many of the reworked parts of the books refer to encounters by Christie's characters in places outside of the UK.

Vocabulary including the word "Oriental" has been changed.

The Telegraph reported one of the changes involved a character complaining about a group of children.

In the 1937's Death on the Nile, a character complains a group of children are pestering her, saying that "they come back and stare, and stare, and their eyes are simply disgusting, and so are their noses, and I don't believe I really like children".

The new edition of the book now says: "They come back and stare, and stare. And I don't believe I really like children."

Dialogue in Christie's 1920 debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles has been altered. Where Poirot once noted that another character is "a Jew, of course", he now makes no comment whatsoever.

US-based right-wing opinion website Breitbart labelled the changes a "woke rewrite" in a Facebook post that has triggered its readers.

"Crazy/woke are on a rampage to destroy anything historical they deem uncomfortable. These folks have lost their senses if they EVER had any," said one commenter.

"Good lord! Just when will this insanity stop? Glad I have a bunch of her novels in paperback with her original writings," added another.

"This is beyond ridiculous! Her books reflect the opinions and attitudes of her time. Next they'll be attacking all the great classics - Dickens, Austen, et al," another said.

"Here's an idea. If you don't like what the author wrote, then don't read their books!" another commented.

In February, superspy James Bond was edited by "sensitivity readers", with racist and sexist language being removed from the original novels.

The Ian Fleming spy series came under review by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, which owns the literary rights to his work, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the book series and their republication in April.

That came after children's books by renowned author Roald Dahl had been partly rewritten to remove language that's now considered offensive, as well as to make the stories more inclusive. 

Adjectives such as "fat" and "ugly" were removed from classic titles including Matilda, The BFG and James and the Giant Peach. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka's factory workers the Oompa Loompas have also become gender-neutral in a bid to promote inclusivity. 

However, the books' publisher said it would also release an unaltered "classics collection" from Dahl following pushback against what had been criticised by some as the "woke" changes.