Salman Rushdie condemns ‘absurd censorship’ after Roald Dahl’s books rewritten
Critics have rejected the notion that Roald Dahl’s children’s books needed to be rewritten for a modern audience.
Author Salman Rushdie claimed that edits to Cardiff-born Dahl’s books are “absurd censorship” while others said the publishers should be ashamed.
The Roald Dahl Story Company and Puffin Books confirmed they had carried out a review of Dahl’s classics to ensure they can be enjoyed by all children.
This meant the removal or rewriting of content deemed offensive, such as references to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race.
Reacting to the Daily Telegraph’s report on the edits, Booker Prize winner Rushdie wrote on Twitter: “Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship.
“Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.’’
Some of the edits reportedly include removing the word “fat” from every book. Augustus Gloop in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is instead described as “enormous”.
Among those criticising the changes to Dahl’s children’s classics was Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America, a community of over 7,000 writers advocating for freedom of expression.
Ms Nossel tweeted that she was “alarmed” by the reported changes, warning that the power to rewrite books could soon be abused.
She added: “Amidst fierce battles against book bans and strictures on what can be taught and read, selective editing to make works of literature conform to particular sensibilities could represent a dangerous new weapon.
“Those who might cheer specific edits to Dahl’s work should consider how the power to rewrite books might be used in the hands of those who do not share their values and sensibilities.”
The reports of edits to Dahl’s venerated works came as a shock to many who had been childhood fans.
Laura Hackett, deputy editor of the Sunday Times, said she will be keeping hold of her original Dahl copies, so that her children “can enjoy them in their full, nasty, colourful glory”.
She added: “The editors at Puffin should be ashamed of the botched surgery they’ve carried out on some of the finest children’s literature in Britain.”
The Roald Dahl Story Company claim their review process has been ongoing since 2020 and that any edits were “small and carefully considered”.
They worked in collaboration with Puffin and Inclusive Minds, a collective for people working towards inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature.
A spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company said: “We want to ensure that Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.
“When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details including a book’s cover and page layout.
“Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text.
Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74 but has regularly topped the list of the nation’s favourite authors. However, he was a controversial figure due to antisemitic comments made throughout his life.
In 2020, his family apologised, saying they recognised the “lasting and understandable hurt caused by Roald Dahl’s antisemitic statements”.
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Those who rewrite history are never the friends of liberty, even if those they rewrite are anti-semitic knob pricks.
Yes, you have every right to air your opinion, right or wrong, but please do reframe from using lowbrow language.
He/she was looking into the mirror at the time of writing.
Look, this is censorship for censorship sake. Those words removed were tame and descriptive. Maybe the Bible, Koran and Torah will receive similar treatment seeing those books do have some extreme language & views. But I see the likes of populist Rishy Sunak has jumped on the bandwagon regarding the rewording of Roald Dahl stories. Maybe this BritNat will call for similar to be done to the English National Anthem which had the xenophobic Anti-Scottish verse six removed to hide its racist rhetoric , and I quote: “And like a torrent rush, rebellious Scots to crush”. Funny how those who… Read more »
If you remove or re-write you are destroying the author’s narrative. If publishers do not wish to distribute books then that is up to them, but to bowdlerise them is an act of vandalism and censorship which is unbecoming in an advanced society, and could lead us down an extremely dangerous path. First Delilah now Dahl. How long before Dylan sees the editor’s scissors cutting away.
What’s new, Wales’ history have been getting re-written since the Middle Ages. The only thing more impressive than the Re-write is the people of Wales’ ability in its acceptance. Even now the people of Wales call themselves foreign and allow those who started it via banning the native language to call themselves British. If they are intent on banning something so benign, what would they be willing to do in order to, let’s say….deny Wales’ status as a Country and as having a distinct culture to anyone else’s.
I wonder what if by the end of this century they will be banning or re-editing stuff from the 2020s because its inappropriate to the views of its time.
In 2060 Roald Dahl will have been dead 70 years and go out of copyright so anyone will be able to republished unexpurgated editions.
What’s wrong with the word fat?
Nothing at all. Fat is a biological term. The censors and re-writers are extremely dangerous people.
With what children are like, the replacement neutral terms then become pejorative anyway.
I’ve never read any of Dahl’s books so I’d be interested to know from those who have whether the words that have been substituted or removed predominately applied to characters with negative traits or to characters regardless whether they were “goodies” or “baddies”.
If it’s the first case and ugly, fat, stupid etc = villain /expendable and pretty, cute, clever etc = hero/survivor then perhaps readers should be encouraged by parents and teachers to read other books. .
If you watch a film or TV series from era’s when words we no longer use are spoken you get a warning beforehand that era specific words will be used. Such as the N word for a black person. But fat is offensive? PC gone stark raving mad. Leave the written word as it was written, instead of making laughing stocks of yourselves by removing words most of use daily.