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Byline: Tony Parsons

IT is not often that you see Huckleberry Finn trending on Twitter. But there Huck Finn is, right up on the crest of the digital wave with Zac Efron and Justin Bieber, as Mark Twain's fictional urchin goes viral.

The reason for Huck's sudden fame is the decision to rewrite history - and remove all references to the N-word in both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The N-word only appears four times in Tom Sawyer, but it is there 219 times in Huckleberry Finn.

This over tracism was shocking when I read the book as a kid in the Sixties - even Jthough I understood that neither Huck nor the author were racist (just the opposite). The book is a portrait of a deeply racist society. It's not Huck Finn who is bigoted - it is 19th Century America.

The racist words do not stop Huckleberry Finn being one of the greatest books ever written. But it does stop it being read.

Twain's classic is banned from most American schools because of its racist language. So cries of "political correctness gone bonkers" are misplaced. Because right now nobody is reading this wonderful book.

Dr Alan Gribben, of Auburn University, Alabama, is the Twain scholar who replaced the N-word with "slave".

"It's such a shame that one word should be a barrier between a marvellous reading experience and a lot of readers," he says.

Perhaps now a generation of American children will become as familiar with Huck and the runaway slave Jim as they are with Zac Efron and Justin Bieber.

Now all we have to do is clean up Frankie Boyle.


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2011
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