Penguin has decided that Roald Dahl’s books can remain intact after all.
The decision to publish “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection” comes just days after Penguin Random House’s childhood impression Puffin faced a wave of backlash for announcing changes to Dahl’s lyrics in new editions of books from the 20th century. century. However, the classic collection would provide readers with 17 of Dahl’s original titles, free from any sensitive rewrites.
Classics like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda,” and “The Witches” were cleaned up to remove offensive and insensitive language. Some references to ethnicity, gender, physical characteristics, and mental health were changed to suit more modern sensibilities.
British newspaper the Telegraph compared the original text to the edited versions and found rewrites that included using “huge” instead of “fat” to describe Augustus Gloop in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. And in ‘James and the Giant Peach’ a line that read: ‘Aunt Sponge was awfully fat / And very limp’ was rewritten to say: ‘Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute / And deserved to be crushed by the fruit .”
Celebrated author Salman Rushdie, who is also published by Penguin Random House, called the move “absurd censorship”, writing on Twitter that “Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.”
PEN US Chief Executive Suzanne Nossel was another critic of the move.
“We at @PENamerica are alarmed by news of ‘hundreds of changes’ to @roald_dahl’s revered works in an alleged attempt to scrub the books of what could offend anyone,” Nossel tweeted. “In the midst of fierce battles against book bans and restrictions on what can be taught and read, selective editing to reconcile literary works with certain sensibilities could be a dangerous new weapon.”
And on Friday, Puffin changed his tune and released a statement with some kind of compromise.
“We recognize the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print,” the explanation is reading. “By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we give readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, wonderful stories. Puffin today announces the release of The Roald Dahl Classic Collection, to keep the author’s classic lyrics in print.”
Nose shared news of the classic collection on Friday in a thread of nine tweets, sharing that she and Rushdie had a conversation about the revised lyrics.
“Last Saturday (sic) morning I got a note from @SalmanRushdie saying, ‘This is insane, isn’t it? @roald_dahl was a bigot and he never supported me, but really? We can’t say fat or feminine? . . . Can we somehow argue against this? Or… meaningless?’
“And no, Salman, it turned out not to be pointless. … So many of us agree on the need to build a more inclusive, just world, and also that that quest need not – and should – come at the expense of freedom of speech, truth and consideration of what is difficult.