Offensive Content Policy
What is published - and what should be published - is often a fraught question. For this reason, we have thought deeply about how to deal with offensive content in the books we published. The following explains the appraoch we follow and why.
Kabaty Press will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia or other offensive content in books that have been published in the modern era. Depending on the extent and scale, we may in some cases work with the author and/or translator to make alterations or cuts to the content (recognising that there are subtleties around what is acceptable in some countries being unacceptable in others).
The key purpose of publishing historical non-fiction is to provide an accurate picture of a past era – including its less attractive parts. In this situation we believe that the value to the historian, and the value to society in being reminded of the prejudices of the past outweigh the risk of giving offence to a modern reader. For this reason, we will not alter the text of historical non-fiction works we publish. It goes without saying that we do not endorse such views, but ‘those who cannot remember to the past are doomed to repeat it’.
Reprints and new English translations of existing historical fiction
This can be a difficult line to draw, as a large proportion of historical fiction has some offensive elements (or elements which are at least dubious by moral standards). Pretending this was not the case does not solve anything. On the other hand, not every book can or should be reprinted. Here, we work from two basic principles: 1) that readers are reading fiction for fun and enjoyment and 2) that readers understand they are reading a book written many years ago and that views that are unacceptable today were at the time common. We will carefully evaluate the book and choose from the following options:
Leave it unchanged. As noted above, readers picking up an older novel understand it may not meet today’s standards. This could be the most appropriate strategy in case of eg. untrue and unfair stereotypes (think Germans who are only interested in money, Italians who are lazy and don’t want to work, or the femme fatale who appears in a lot of noir crime fiction).
Make amendments to the text to avoid the offence. Readers are reading fiction for fun and therefore don’t want to be jolted out of their enjoyment by a casual use of the n-word, or a writer using bisexual as shorthand for morally ambiguous. Amending texts will be most appropriate where the required changes are small and the offensive content simply reflects the prevailing views of the time.
Avoid publishing the book. Not every book has to be republished or translated, and where the story rests on assumptions that are repugnant to a modern reader, or where the writer seems to be deliberately targeting a particular group, there is no need to republish it. An example of something that would fall in this category is GK Chesterton’s short story ‘The God of the Gongs’ featuring the black boxer who is described as dangerous, primitive and a threat to modern society.
We are always open to feedback on the above, and we are open to changing our minds! If you think we are striking the balance incorrectly, contact us and explain why, and we promise to listen carefully to your point of view.