WordBridge Publishing has defended its version of Conrad’s classic as a “public service,” according to its Web site.
Joseph Conrad, whose “Heart of Darkness” and “Lord Jim” have been scrutinized by English students on multiple continents for decades, wrote a lesser known novel in 1897 called “The Nigger of the Narcissus.”
Now, in what critics are calling a blatant act of politically correct censorship, a Netherlands-based publisher has reprinted the novel under a new name: “The N-word of the Narcissus.”
The new version is the first installment of WordBridge Publishing’s classic texts series, featuring “texts with a message for moderns, made accessible to moderns.”
But some critics say updating a Conrad novel by replacing all mentions of the offensive term “nigger” with “n-word” is just as offensive as the word itself.
“It’s outrageous,” said Niger Innis, spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, a New York-based civil rights organization. “Are they going to go to Mark Twain as well and take out all of those references?
Innis said it would be equally inappropriate for Alex Haley’s “Roots” to be re-released with instances of the racial slur replaced with a more innocuous term.
But Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, said he found the new version of Conrad’s novel appropriate for readers.
He said the latest version of Conrad’s classic is not an example of censorship because its original intent remains intact.
“You and I know what that means,” said Shelton. “The word really is still there but it takes into consideration those who would rather not read such derogatory language.”
In any form, however, Shelton said the offensive term has no place in modern society.
“It belongs in our history, it is part of our history,” he said. “But it should be dead and gone.”
According to WordBridge’s Web site, the renaming of Conrad’s classic is a “public service” to readers.
“This new version addresses the reason for its neglect: the profusion of the so-called n-word throughout its pages,” the site reads. “Hence, the introduction of ‘n-word’ throughout the text, to remove this offence to modern sensibilities.”
“If we can’t read the important documents of our culture in their original form, with some understanding of their context, we may as well stop trying to understand past artists and thinkers altogether,” one comment read.