WordBridge Publishing has performed a public service in putting Joseph Conrad's neglected classic into a form accessible to modern readers. This new version addresses the reason for its neglect: the profusion of the so-called n-word throughout its pages. Hence, the introduction of "n-word" throughout the text, to remove this offence to modern sensibilities. The N-word of the Narcissus tells the tale of a fateful voyage of a British sailing ship, and on that voyage the ability of a lone black man to take the crew hostage. The ability of this man to manipulate an entire ship's crew can no longer be seen as a mere exercise in storytelling. Conrad in fact appears to have been the first to highlight the phenomenon of manipulation based in white guilt.
All of the one-star reviews so far say basically the same thing: "Is this a joke?" Based on the publisher's website, with a response to critics, I don't think this is a joke:
...My motivation for making the change was my own aversion to its profuse use of the n-word, which hindered me from ever getting around to reading it. When I finally did read it, I was astounded by its message. Conrad penned a complex, modern exploration of race relations such as I have seldom encountered elsewhere. And it is precisely the use of the n-word which obfuscates that exporation, which seems to indicate a superficially racist story rather than the sensitive, indeed jarringly relevant exploration which it actually is. I have no regrets for creating this version of the book. Indeed, I am glad for the attention it has brought to the book. The Nigger of the Narcissus deserves reading now more than ever, deserves discussion, deserves pride of place on reading lists, and if The N-word of the Narcissus contributes to this end, it will have served its purpose.
We live in strange times.
UPDATE: Slog Tipper Rafil just sent me a pertinent video. You can find it here.