Politically correct/2 – Censorship

“There is more than one way to burn a book.

And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”

I’m reading the original (English) version of Starship Troopers by R. A. Heinlein. I know the Italian version by heart, precisely the 1980 edition in the Urania series from Mondadori.

I was astonished by the presence of some paragraphs: I didn’t know them, so I checked my copy. The Italian version misses some text. For years I loved a book that wasn’t the real book. I don’t know why they cut it: maybe for length restrictions, or for cultural references (however, only a pair of cuts are referred to USA culture).

This reminded me of a piece by Ray Bradbury. In the 1979 paperback edition of Fahrenheit 451 (according to Wikipedia) he wrote a “Coda”, a sort of postscript, where he criticizes publishers cutting pieces of his works while putting them in anthologies and changing words like “damn” to softer exclamations, and groups whining for the absence (or presence) of specific races, cultures, ideas and so on. You can read the whole text here (however, I am still searching for that edition of the book so I don’t know how accurate the transcript is. Also I don’t know anything about copyright issues linking that text).

As Bradbury states, politically correct is a flag waved by many to enforce their point of view, restricting the artistic expression of the author. And I add “restricting the freedom of speech”.

Someone pointed to the “Coda” in a debate on the essay Shame by Pam Noles. The essay is about the TV adaption of Earthsea (I love that book too, I found the essay surfing the Web) spanning from the absence of non-white people in fantasy books and TV shows. (She made a direct remark to Bradbury’s point of view, after someone popped it out, but I can’t find the source now)

Shame is a good reading for everyone and specially for Italian people: it is good in order to get a better knowledge of foreign debates, useful to gain a better understanding of how to deal with integration problems (the essay is about racial problems inside USA culture, but it is useful in order to distinguish between citizen’s rights and racism vs foreign habits and domestic laws).

As a side note, I also found an interview to Bradbury where he talks about the meaning of Fahrenheit 451. It is still in my “reading queue”, so I don’t know the exact content.

Edit: I changed the link to the Coda text, the previous was broken.

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3 comments on “Politically correct/2 – Censorship

  1. Mana says:

    “Digression is the soul of wit”, from Bradbury’s Coda to Fahrenheit 451. I agree with that.

    I, for one, do not tolerate well the liberties translators take for the sake of letting people, in their own intention, better comprehend what the author meant. And with that excuse they often butcher not only expressions and metaphors that would be hard to translate, but also names of people, places and creatures. Readers should be confronted with a text that is as close as possible to the original, so that the meaning can be inferred from the words of the author himself/herself, not from someone else’s interpretation. Better yet, then, it would be to read a book in its original version, whenever possible.

    But I digress. Although, the whim of an editor, or censor, does not fall too far away from that same category of butchering mentioned above; and yet, it can be even more violent and damaging.

  2. J_B says:

    mmm… I also read the Urania version of Starship Troopers. Are the differences important enough for me to start searching for the original version?

  3. gamma2 says:

    @J_B: In my opinion, It’s a book about moral philosophy: even a single word is important to understand the writer’s message.

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