Saturday, January 2, 2010
The WHAT of the 'Narcissus'?
WordBridge, a conservative Christian publisher based in the Netherlands, has issued a reprint of Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' -- with a slight change: It's now The N-word of the 'Narcissus'.
What's more, every instance of "nigger" thoughout the collection of stories has become "n-word."
WordBridge proudly claims it "has performed a public service" by removing an "offence to modern sensibilities," one that has made the book "neglected."
This action sounds suspiciously like a cynical right-wing attempt to co-opt liberal "white guilt" where there is no earthly reason to do so.
That offends my sensibility. We're not mature enough to handle execrable language? We're not mature enough to read great literature -- in the historical context in which it was written -- without feeling guilt?
Don't those people ever learn?
Recall the silly but recurring school-board ruckuses over Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? In it Mark Twain used "nigger" in the casual and unthinkingly cruel way of his times, not the deliberately savage and cutting fashion of ours.
A friend said WordBridge's action reminds him "of a certain Christian website that replaced every occurrence of the sprinter Tyson Gay's name with 'Tyson Homosexual.'"
Fortunately, if you want to read The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' in the original version, Amazon.com sells a clean, unsullied edition as well as WordBridge's inane abomination. (This morning Nigger was No. 230,852 on Amazon's best-selling list. Not a blockbuster, but "neglected"? Ha!)
With thanks to Gawker for the heads-up.