Rewritten changes to new editions of Roald Dahl's books claiming some words are 'offensive and harmful' have left readers up in arms, calling this censorship.
Published Thursday, 23 February 2023 09:02
In every effort to remain inclusive of all readers and future generations, Puffin, the publisher of Roald Dahl's books has taken it upon themselves to rewrite the author's intended words making it impossible to distinguish the difference between male and female, fat and thin, large and small.
In the book, James and the Giant Peach, the Cloud-Men have become Cloud-People. In The Witches, there are no longer any old hags – only old crows, Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from “fat” to “enormous,” and replaces the word “female” throughout Matilda with “woman,” and instead of being called "small men," Oompa-Loompas are now "small people." Elsewhere in The Witches, the description of a woman “working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman” has become “working as a top scientist or running a business”.
In another example, in James and the Giant Peach, the lines “Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat / And tremendously flabby at that,” and “Aunt Spiker was thin as a wire / And dry as a bone, only drier” has become “Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute / And deserved to be squashed by the fruit,” and, “Aunt Spiker was much of the same / And deserves half of the blame.”
Removing the author's original context of the story makes it difficult to distinguish the difference between the two and makes it obvious they are removing gender-neutral words and pushing feminist agendas.
British newspaper The Telegraph first reported that the publisher of Dahl's books, Puffin, made hundreds of changes to the original texts of the author's well-known children's books.
According to the Guardian, publishers Puffin hired sensitivity readers — “a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature,” Puffin said — to comb through Dahl’s children’s books (but not his adult works), with those readers finding over 100 edits, ranging from tweaking or removing a word or two to rewriting entire couplets. This on its own is an actual copyright infringement.
Readers, writers, and advocacy groups have all criticized the revisions.
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of the free expression advocacy group PEN America, called the changes alarming.
Selective editing to make literary works fit particular views could make up a dangerous new weapon amid strong battles against book bans and restrictions on what can be taught and read, Nossel tweeted. "Those who might applaud some adjustments to Dahl's writing should think about how the ability to alter literature could be utilized by individuals who do not share their values and sensibilities."
Renowned author Salman Rushdie stepped in as well, calling the changes censorship.
Rushdie is, of course, known for being a target for his own work. He spent years in hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for his death after publishing his novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims consider blasphemous. Rushdie was stabbed in August and lost vision in one eye and has nerve damage.
"Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed," Rushdie tweeted.
Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74 after writing children's books and stories that have been translated into 68 languages. Some of his books became classic movies as well. His book Matilda was just recently made into a musical film for Netflix and premiered last year.
Though his work is revered, Dahl is also a controversial figure for the antisemitic comments he made throughout his life. The Roald Dahl Story Company issued an apology in 2020.