Publisher Of Roald Dahl’s Books Accused Of Censorship

Roald Dahl’s children’s novels have undergone changes that have drawn censure from writers, organizations, and some fans online. The Roald Dahl Story Company and the books’ publisher, Puffin Books, agreed on the alterations, and they were implemented by Inclusive Minds, a sensitivity group for children’s books, according to the Daily Telegraph, which broke the news of them first.

Dahl was the author behind such famous works as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda,” and “The Witches.” The purpose of the changes is to ensure that Dahl’s works “can continue to be enjoyed by all today,” Puffin told the Telegraph.

Descriptions of characters as “fat,” “ugly,” and “crazy” have been removed from the works in an attempt to bolster body-positivity and more sensitive depictions of mental health.

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Some gendered descriptions have also been removed from the texts, changing what had previously been references to “boys and girls” as “people” or “children,” reported the Telegraph, which also said that a previous description of the character Miss Trunchbull in “Matilda” as a “most formidable female” has been changed to a “most formidable woman.” In addition, additional passages that weren’t penned by Dahl were added, according to the publication.

“In The Witches, a paragraph explaining that witches are bald beneath their wigs ends with the new line: ‘There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that,'” said the Telegraph.

Both Puffin Publications and the Roald Dahl Story Company have been contacted by CBS News for comment. Both readers and literary heavyweights have been criticizing the alterations.

Author Salman Rushdie, who has been recovering after a stabbing attack last summer, wrote on Twitter, “Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship.”

“Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed,” Rushdie added. Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America — a nonprofit organization that “stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression” — said the organization was “alarmed at the 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.”

In a 13-tweet thread, Nossel went on to say that “selective editing to make works of literature conform to particular sensibilities could represent a dangerous new weapon,” adding that so much of literature could be “construed as offensive to someone.”

“If we start down the path of trying to correct for perceived slights instead of allowing readers to receive and react to books as written, we risk distorting the work of great authors and clouding the essential lens that literature offers on society,” Nossel wrote.

Publisher Of Roald Dahl's Books Accused Of Censorship

In 2020, the Dahl family issued an apology for antisemitic remarks made by the author during his lifetime, writing in a statement, “Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations.”

“We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words,” the statement continued. The Roald Dahl Story Company website, which was acquired by Netflix in September 2021, no longer appears to have the message.

Around 250 million copies of Dahl’s books have been sold, and his 43-volume library includes 20 children’s books. According to WordsRated, movie versions of his novels have made over $750 million at the box office.

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