Jan 9, 2011

Censoring the Book ”Huck Finn”

I read the news that a new edition of "Huckleberry Finn" which replaces the word "nigger" to "slave" has been published by the New York Times. (http://nyti.ms/eIkby)

I think that it is a very complicated problem.

The editor who made the new edition of "Huckleberry Finn" changed the words because of a claim that some teachers can't use a book including the word "nigger" in their classroom.

I myself basically think that "Huckleberry Finn" shouldn't be changed. The reasons are that a literary work should be respected and that a teacher should explain the historical context in which Mark Twain used such words.

"Huckleberry Finn" doesn't defend racism, although the word "nigger" is used in it. There is a similar case where the book "The Story of Little Black Sambo" gets out of print in Japan because it is thought to be a racist book. I think that it is better to publish an original version of a story with an introduction which explains its historical context.

It is difficult to object to the opinion that such books actually hurt the feelings of the people who are discriminated against, though. An original version of such books is worth publishing even though it hurts their feelings, isn’t it?

A while ago, I saw news that Amazon.com was selling a book which defends pedophilia on CNN Anderson Cooper 360. (http://goo.gl/VwgAr) Many people may agree that "Huckleberry Finn" is worth saving in its original version (although in fact a changed version is published), but it is a touchy problem that a book that defends pedophilia should be sold for the sake of protecting the freedom of expression. There are different opinions in America where pedophilia is strictly banned and in Japan where people are relatively tolerant of pedophilia.

I guess that people would be divided over the problem of "The Story of Little Black Sambo". If it should be out of print because black people feel unpleasant, how should we do with Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses"? It might be difficult to obtain consensus on how far freedom of expression should be allowed, because it depends on each one's morality in societies.

It is a little deferent problem that a literary work which was written in the old style of Japanese is published in the contemporary style of Japanese. Books of Uchida Hyakken who sticks to the old style of Japanese are published in the contemporary style now. It might be easy for Japanese people today to read in the contemporary style, but such a change of original version degrades the author’s will and the values of the literary work. In fact one can get used to reading in the old style of Japanese quite quickly, and gets a different impression than in the contemporary style. For example "江戸川亂步" looks more mysterious than "江戸川乱歩".

I have an opinion that an original version basically should not be changed. If changed versions are allowed to be printed, an original version should be in print.

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