The Corner

Ten Little Confusions

Some readers have questioned my assertion, in yesterday’s column, that

Agatha Christie published a book with the n-word in the title. Well, the

used-book website Abebooks.com lists 132 copies of that book under that

title! There is, in fact, a tangled story here, which someone with more

patience than I have might un-tangle. When the Christie novel came out in

Britain in 1939 it had the n-word title. Issued in the USA the following

year, the title was, as I said, changed to “And Then There Were None,”

because the n-word was already considered disgraceful by Americans, at any

rate the novel-reading classes. It kept the original title in England until

well into the 1960s, though — my mother, a keen reader of detective

fiction, owned a copy. Then modern sensibilities kicked in and the British

publisher changed the title to “Ten Little Indians.” Abebooks lists 156

books with that title, the earliest dated 1966. To further confuse things,

the book was made into a play early on–at latest 1944–and the play was

produced under all three titles. There was also at least one movie…

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