Roald Dahl: ‘Classic Collection’ to ‘keep original works in print’ in wake of editing row

Author Roald Dahl (PA) (PA Media)
Author Roald Dahl (PA) (PA Media)

Publishers Puffin UK has announced the release of the Roald Dahl classic collection “to keep the author’s classic texts in print”, following criticism of recent editing of his work to remove potentially offensive language.

The 17 titles will be available later this year and will include archive material relevant to each of the stories by the much-loved but controversial children’s author.

The classic collection will sit alongside the newly-released Roald Dahl books for young readers, which have been rewritten to cater for the sensitivities of modern audiences.

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.

The removal of colourful language from works such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda sparked a fierce backlash.

Critics including acclaimed author Sir Salman Rushdie and Rishi Sunak condemned the move, with the PM insisting this week “you should not Gobblefunk around with words”.

The Queen Consort also appeared to criticise the move in a speech to a reception attended by authors and other literary figures at Clarence House on Thursday.

Camilla told guests: “Thank you, on behalf of book-lovers and book clubs everywhere, for sharing your talents with us and for everything you do to promote literacy and a love of literature.

“Please keep doing so and 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.”

On Friday, Francesca Dow managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s, said: “At Puffin we have proudly published Roald Dahl’s stories for more than 40 years in partnership with the Roald Dahl Story Company. Their mischievous spirit and his unique storytelling genius have delighted the imaginations of readers across many generations.

“We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation.

“As a children’s publisher, our role is to share the magic of stories with children with the greatest thought and care. 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.

“We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print. By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories.

“Roald Dahl once said: ‘If my books can help children become readers, then I feel I have accomplished something important’. At Puffin, we’ll keep pursuing that ambition for as long as we make books.”

The publishing company confirmed 17 Dahl titles will be published under the Penguin logo, including archive material relevant to each of the stories, and will be available later this year.

Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74 but has regularly topped the list of the nation’s favourite authors. But his legacy has been marred by his antisemitic views.

In 2020, his family apologised, saying they recognised the “lasting and understandable hurt caused by Roald Dahl’s antisemitic statements”.

While His Dark Materials author Sir Philip Pullman suggested Dahl’s works should be left to “fade away” and go out of print as modern tastes move on.