A new version of Mark Twain's 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' in which the word "nigger" is censored is to be released, prompting a debate over political correctness.
The book, first published in 1884 and described by Ernest Hemingway as the basis of "all modern American literature", has been disappearing from US school curricula due to its 217 mentions of the racist term.
A new edition compiled by Prof Alan Gribben, a prominent Twain scholar, replaces the word with "slave" and also removes mentions of "injun", a derogatory term for a native American.
Prof Gribben conceded that "textual purists will be horrified" at what he had done to the much-loved book, but insisted his edit was "not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colourblind".
"Race matters in these books," he told Publishers Weekly magazine. "It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century." Prof Thomas Wortham, a Twain expert at the University of California, compared Prof Gribben to Thomas Bowdler, who published versions of Shakespeare he thought more suitable for women and children.
"A book like Professor Gribben has imagined doesn't challenge children to ask, 'Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?'," Prof Wortham said.
Prof Gribben, who teaches at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, said he was prompted to release the new edition after teachers told him they no longer felt able to use the book and a black friend of his daughter's said she hated it.
"For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs," he said. The book will be published next month in a single volume with Twain's 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'.