After a storm of criticism, British children’s book publisher Puffin has announced that unadapted versions of Roald Dahl’s books will also remain available. These books will be published under the Penguin label, Puffin’s parent company.
Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company announced last week that they had adapted parts of Dahl’s children’s books on the advice of sensitivity readers to bring them “up to date” and make them accessible to everyone.
In particular, descriptions of characters were adjusted. For example, words such as “fat” and “ugly” disappeared from the description of people and some characterizations were made gender neutral.
Well-known writers, including Salman Rushdie, spoke of censorship and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also reacted critically. He felt that Dahl’s work should be “preserved and not retouched”.
Queen consort Camilla also seems to have spoken out against the changes, according to British media, by urging writers at a literary meeting to remain true to themselves and their calling. “Don’t let those who want to limit your freedom of speech or limit your imagination hold you back,” she said.
Choose by yourself
Penguin seems to have taken the criticism seriously. Francesca Dow, the publishing house’s director, says the decision to publish both the original and edited texts arose from the national debate that arose over the changes. According to her, this once again made the “extraordinary power” of Dahl’s books clear. “By releasing the books in both versions, readers can choose for themselves how they want to experience the stories,” says Dow.
De Fontein, the publisher of the Dutch version of Roald Dahl’s work, had previously announced that the author’s books will not be modified for the time being.
Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74. In 2020, his family apologized for the anti-Semitic comments he had made in an interview. According to his grandchildren, these “biased comments were a stark contrast to the man we knew.”
- Sensitivity readers bring Roald Dahl ‘up to date’, Dutch publisher critical
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