Following approval from James Prichard, the great-grandson of Agatha Christie, the French publisher of her novels will change the title of her famed 1938 mystery novel to “Ils étaient dix” (There were Ten), from the “Ten Little Niggers” used since the first 1940 French translation of the book, French radio station RTL reported.
“When the book was written, the language was different, and we used words that are now forgotten. This story is based on a popular nursery rhyme that is not attributed to Agatha Christie… I’m pretty sure the original title has never been used in the United States. In the UK, it was changed in the 1980s and today we change it everywhere,” James Prichard told RTL, adding that, “My opinion is that Agatha Christie was above all there to entertain, and she would not have liked the idea of someone being hurt by one of her turns of phrase. Today, fortunately, we can fix it without betraying the book.”
Christie’s original title was used in all British editions of the crime novel until 1980, and was changed to “And Then There Were None” in an 1985 edition. In the United States, however, “And Then There Were None” has been used since the book’s very first edition there in 1940.
The book has sold over 100 million copies and is the sixth-best selling book of all time.
French philosopher and TV and radio show host, Raphaël Enthoven, reacted to the news in a series of tweets, saying that the change was a “triumph of the uneducated”.
— Raphaël Enthoven (@Enthoven_R) August 26, 2020
“A few months ago still, there were thousands of us laughing heartily at the uneducated people who were indignant at this title. Henceforth, lack of culture triumphs and reigns,” Enthoven wrote in one tweet.
Additionally, the French edition will also drop the Nigger Island name of the novel’s setting and use Soldier Island instead.
Several European countries, such as Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and Spain still use the original title.
Book cover: “There were Ten”, formerly published under the title “Ten Little Niggers”.