Thursday, January 06, 2011

The "Huckleberry Finn" rewrite: Thomas Bowdler is alive and well

Michiko Kakutani wrote a marvelous slam about the latest attempt to force Mark Twain to write according to some people's taste; "New 'Huckleberry Finn' Edition Does Disservice to a Classic", New York Times, 2011-01-06.

One of her best sentences on changing "nigger" to "slave" was, "Never mind that attaching the epithet slave to the character Jim — who has run away in a bid for freedom — effectively labels him as property, as the very thing he is trying to escape."  Another is that it "stands as a powerful indictment of slavery (with Nigger Jim its most noble character)".

Rewriting by translators is one reason that I prefer reading books or seeing movies in the original language.  I may comprehend the text less in the original, but that is my doing, not some intermediary's.

See also "Bowdlerization", Melvyn Magree, Reader Weekly, 2001-04-12.