When James Jones published “From Here to Eternity” in 1951, his editors had pulled back some of the frank language and description in his original draft. The resulting novel, which chronicled the drinking, brawling and illicit affairs of soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the months before Pearl Harbor — was a titillating, critically acclaimed bestseller.
The 1953 movie, which starred Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, got a similar reception, winning eight Oscars, including best picture.
Now, a new e-book edition of the novel will include the profanity and mentions of gay sex that were left out of the 1951 version. The uncensored “From Here to Eternity” is being published by Open Road Media and Jones’ heirs, including daughter Kaylie Jones.
“It’s been on my mind for quite a few years, and the right moment just hadn’t come up yet,” Kaylie Jones told the New York Times. “My father fought bitterly to hold on to every four-letter word in the manuscript. The publisher was concerned about getting through the censors.”
In addition to the four-letter words, scenes that explicitly mention gay sex have been restored to the text. In one, Private Maggio (the character played in the film by Sinatra) mentions having oral sex with a man for money — the kind of detail that must have been very difficult for an author to let go.
Though many books from the 1950s have gone out of print, “From Here to Eternity” has escaped that fate. The publication of an uncensored version as an e-book shows one of the ways that e-books can add to the cultural conversation — a new print edition with these small yet telling bits restored might never have happened. Open Road will release nine other books by James Jones, including “The Ice Cream Headache,” a collection of short stories, and the never-published book, “To the End of the War.”
Jones’ daughter Kaylie is herself an author, most recently of the memoir “Lies My Mother Never Told Me.”