Rishi Sunak joins calls for Roald Dahl books to be left alone: Who else is against rewrites?
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has criticised the decision to rewrite Roald Dahl’s books.
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought it was right to censor children’s books, his official spokesman said: “When it comes to our very rich literary heritage, the Prime Minister agrees with the BFG that you should not gobblefunk around with words.
“I think it’s important that works of literature and works of fiction are preserved and not airbrushed. We have always defended the right to free speech and expression.”
A number of Roald Dahl’s books, including Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, have been rewritten to remove language that could be deemed offensive.
Words such as “ugly” and “fat” have been edited out and descriptions of certain characters have been made less grotesque. References to gender and mental health have also been altered.
The decision to edit Dahl’s books has been criticised by people from the literary world and beyond.
Author Salman Rushdie Rushdie, whose book The Satanic Verses is banned in countries including Bangladesh, Sudan, and South Africa, said: “Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.”
Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed. https://t.co/sdjMfBr7WW
— Salman Rushdie (@SalmanRushdie) February 18, 2023
Actor Brian Cox told Times Radio that it is “disgraceful” to rewrite Dahl’s books. He said: “We can’t start rewriting works of literature because it suits our so-called moral code.”
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, an organisation that fights for freedom of speech, said: “At PEN America we are alarmed at news of ‘hundreds of changes’ to venerated works by Roald Dahl in a purported effort to scrub the books of that which might offend someone.
“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.”
Laura Hackett, deputy editor of the Sunday Times, said she will be keeping hold of her original copies of Dahl books, 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.”
Author Luke Turner said: “Part of what makes Dahl’s books so powerful is that they’re at times cruel and nasty, they act as literature that guides children into the adult world.
“I was aware of that at the time, they were quite daunting in their way – this editing is ludicrous.”
Times Radio journalist Stig Abell said: “This change to Roald Dahl is so preposterously, laughably pointless it makes you wonder whether the publisher is aware that fiction is an act of creatively making things up.”
This change to Roald Dahl is so preposterously, laughably pointless it makes you wonder whether the publisher is aware that fiction is an act of creatively making things up. pic.twitter.com/FZ84I3toPB
— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) February 18, 2023
Journalist Matthew D’Ancona said: “Read this and consider its wider implications. When did we decide to ‘regularly review’ the texts of the past? Who does the ‘reviewing’ and changing? According to what criteria?”
Tory MP Ben Bradley said: “Roald Dahl was an incredible story teller, who had the career he had writing stories for generations of kids because of his talent.
“I think having someone come in and piss about with his words and sensor his language is a travesty, to be honest.”
#RoaldDahl was an incredible story teller, who had the career he had writing stories for generations of kids because of his talent. I think having someone come in and piss about with his words and sensor his language is a travesty, to be honest.
— Cllr Ben Bradley MP (@BBradley_Mans) February 20, 2023