Upcoming NewSouth ‘Huck Finn’ Eliminates the ‘N’ Word

Cover of "The Adventures of Huckleberry F...

‘Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic by most any measure—T.S. Eliot called it a masterpiece, and Ernest Hemingway pronounced it the source of “all modern American literature.” Yet, for decades, it has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation’s most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word: “nigger.”

Twain himself defined a “classic” as “a book which people praise and don’t read.” Rather than see Twain’s most important work succumb to that fate, Twain scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books plan to release a version of Huckleberry Finn, in a single volume with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that does away with the “n” word (as well as the “in” word, “Injun”) by replacing it with the word “slave.” ‘ (Publisher’s Weekly).

One thought on “Upcoming NewSouth ‘Huck Finn’ Eliminates the ‘N’ Word

  1. I’m not really comfortable with this despite being happy that these books may now be read more often.

    I have never understood the way society has chosen to give magical powers to certain sets of phonemes. Let’s take the work “fuck” for an example. On the recent sci-fi series “Battlestar Gallactica” they created the word, “frak”, as a substitute. It clearly means exactly the same thing and is used in exactly the same ways as the Anglo-Saxon classic, but there has been no outrage about children being able to hear it over and over on TV (and they DO know what it means). For some reason, the original has been designated as automatically corrupting and is never to be spoken except by those of dubious character, but “frak” and dozens of other substitutes referring to the sexual act are perfectly acceptable. The ludicrousness of the situation is even more apparent on Adult Swim where cartoon characters are bleeped whenever they say “shit”, but phrases like the much more graphic “lick my balls” are left untouched.

    This brings me back to where I started. As a gay man I was very happy about the movement to take back the words “queer” and “faggot” in order to remove their power. Now, however, “faggot” is being turned into the gay equivalent of “nigger” (we can use it but you can’t). I’d much prefer for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer to be left alone and used as a tool for discussion of where the power of such words comes from and how one goes about defusing that power.


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