Critics have rejected the notion that Roald Dahl’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.
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.
This meant the removal or rewriting of content deemed offensive, such as references to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race.
Reacting to the Daily Telegraph’s report on the edits, Booker Prize winner Rushdie wrote on Twitter: “Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship.
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
“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.
She added: “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.
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. 2/13
— Suzanne Nossel (@SuzanneNossel) February 18, 2023
“Those who might cheer specific edits to Dahl’s work should consider how the power to rewrite books might be used in the hands of those who do not share their values and sensibilities.”
The reports of edits to Dahl’s venerated works came as a shock to many who had been childhood fans.
Laura Hackett, deputy editor of the Sunday Times, said she will be keeping hold of her original Dahl copies, 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.”
The Roald Dahl Story Company claim their review process has been ongoing since 2020 and that any edits were “small and carefully considered”.
They worked in collaboration with Puffin and Inclusive Minds, a collective for people working towards inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature.
A spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company said: “We want to ensure that Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.
“When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details including a book’s cover and page layout.
“Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text.
Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74 but has regularly topped the list of the nation’s favourite authors. However, he was a controversial figure due to antisemitic comments made throughout his life.
In 2020, his family apologised, saying they recognised the “lasting and understandable hurt caused by Roald Dahl’s antisemitic statements”.