Have you ever read a book that was all but politically correct? A book that had racism shine through like a blinding beacon? If you read a lot this will eventually happen to all of us. If you believe, as do I, that with writing comes a certain responsibility then you will be appalled by uneducated or even hateful remarks and descriptions in books. Not to say that for some story-lines it might not be necessary to depict eg a certain character as a racist, but there's a huge difference between a character being of a certain mindset or the person who wrote the book.
In January there's been quite an uproar in the book community in both Germany and Austria all thanks to a publisher removing controversial language from a classic children's book. The book in question was the 1957 tale The Little Witch by Ottfried Preussler which is apparently littered with "questionable" terms including words like "negro". For a better understanding of the whole debate I urge you to read the article in full.
I was appalled (again) but not in the way some of you might be thinking. My first thought was, and there's definitely the wordsmith in me talking, that this just isn't right. The book has been written decades ago and while it might not be "politically correct" today we should see it in its historic and socio-political context. Those are lovely stories which kids today deserve to read or be read to and if you're able to teach your child how to tie their shoes than you damn well better be capable of talking about why certain expression have been used way back when and why they're not ok today. I mean, is that so hard? For the above mentioned publisher it apparently is.
To me, despite the good intention behind it, this is simply taking things a step too far. And I seriously wonder what Mr Preussler had to say about all of this. If there is one word for it then it's censorship. You're neither doing children a favor nor are you going to make the affected author very happy. At least I wouldn't exactly be elated if sixty years down the road someone decided to censor certain expressions in stories I have written as they are suddenly considered to be littered with discriminatory language. I bet most authors will feel that way.
Of course today the version replaces the offensive word with "soldier". Fifty years down the road that term probably won't be politically correct anymore either.
And then, of course, there's the case of Huckleberry Finn. For more info about the rather recent changes to the text, check out this NY Times article.
What's your take on all of this? Do you consider such changes an attack on artistic integrity or do you feel that literature, which is older or dated, needs to be "updated" to fit into what's conceived as politically correct in our society? Please share.