Rishi Sunak weighs in on Roald Dahl censorship row: ‘Don’t gobblefunk around with words’

File picture of Rishi Sunak speaking to the media during a visit to Harris Academy at Battersea on January 6, 2023  (PA)
File picture of Rishi Sunak speaking to the media during a visit to Harris Academy at Battersea on January 6, 2023 (PA)

Downing Street has weighed in on the censorship row over Roald Dahl’s books insisting “you should not Gobblefunk around with words”.

No 10’s intervention on Monday comes after the British publisher of Dahl’s classic children’s books removed colourful language from works such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda to make them more acceptable to modern readers.

A review of new editions of Dahl’s books now available in bookstores shows that some passages relating to weight, mental health, gender and race were altered. The changes made by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Random House, were first reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Asked whether the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak thought it was right to censor children’s books, the PM’s 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.”

The word “gobblefunk” is taken from one of Dahl’s best known books, The BFG, and means to play around with words to invent new ones or meanings.

The spokesman added that it was important that “works of literature and of fiction are preserved and not airbrushed.”

Critics have rejected the notion that the author’s children’s books needed to be rewritten for a modern audience.

Author Salman Rushdie claimed that edits to Dahl’s books are “absurd censorship” while others said the publishers should be ashamed.

Reacting to reports of the edits Mr 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.