Dahl's original books to be released after rewrite row

Publisher Puffin UK on Friday announced it would release the original versions of Roald Dahl's children's books to keep the "classic texts in print" following a wave of criticism over their re-editing for a modern audience.

"We've listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl's books," said Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children's.

"Roald Dahl's fantastic books are often the first stories young children will read independently, and taking care for the imaginations and fast-developing minds of young readers is both a privilege and a responsibility," she added.

"We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl's classic texts in print," she added, saying readers could now choose whether to read the original or re-edited versions.

Novelist Salman Rushdie led condemnations on Monday after it was revealed that Dahl's books had undergone rewrites, calling it "absurd censorship" by "bowdlerising sensitivity police".

Puffin made hundreds of changes to characters and language in Dahl's stories including making the diminutive Oompa-Loompas in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" gender neutral and calling Augustus Gloop enormous rather than fat.

Mrs Twit in "The Twits" is also no longer ugly, but beastly instead, while the Cloud-Men in "James and the Giant Peach" are now "Cloud-People".

- Camilla steps in -

The criticism came amid a growing trend for publishers to employ so-called "sensitivity readers" who work alongside editors to identify references to gender, race, weight, violence or mental health that might offend readers.

A spokesperson for the Netflix-owned Roald Dahl Story Company, which controls the rights to the books, said it was not unusual for publishers "to review the language used" for new print runs and that its guiding principle had been to try to maintain the "irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text".

But the edits sparked a torrent of criticism.

Rushdie, who lived in hiding for years due to a fatwa calling for his death over his 1988 book "The Satanic Verses", said Dahl had been a "self confessed anti-Semite, with pronounced racist leanings, and he joined in the attack on me back in 1989.

"Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed," he wrote on Twitter.

Queen Consort Camilla even appeared to weigh in, telling members of her online book club to "please remain true to your calling, unimpeded by those who may wish to curb the freedom of your expression or impose limits on your imagination".

Dahl's books have sold over 250 million copies worldwide.

Some of his most popular stories have been turned into blockbuster films such as last year's "Matilda the Musical" and "The BFG" (2016) which was directed by Steven Spielberg.

Others highlighted how the "nasty" elements of Dahl's stories were exactly what made them popular with children.

Laura Hackett, deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times newspaper, called the changes "botched surgery" and vowed on Twitter to hold on to her original copies so her children could "enjoy them in their full, nasty, colourful glory".