Penguin to publish ‘classic’ Roald Dahl books after criticism

Publisher Penguin Random House announced on February 24, 2023 that it will publish unredacted “classic” versions of Roald Dahl’s children’s novels after receiving criticism for cuts and rewrites that were intended to make the books suitable for modern readers.
Along with the new editions, the company said 17 of Dahl’s books will be published in their original form later this year as “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection” so that “readers can choose which version of Dahl’s stories they prefer.” “.

The move comes after criticism of dozens of changes made to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and other beloved classics to recent editions published under the company’s Puffin children’s label, in which passages relating to weight, mental health, gender and race. .
Augustus Gloop, Charlie’s gluttonous antagonist in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” originally published in 1964, became “enormous” instead of “enormously fat.” In “Witches”, an “old hag” turned into an “old crow”, and a supernatural woman posing as an ordinary woman can be a “top-notch scientist or running a business” instead of a “cashier in a supermarket or write letters for a businessman.”

In “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, the word “black” was dropped from a description of the “killer, brutal-looking” tractors.

The Roald Dahl Story Company, which controls the rights to the books, said it had worked with Puffin to proofread and revise the texts because he wanted to make sure that “all children today continue to enjoy Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters.”

While tweaking old books to fit modern sensibilities is not a new phenomenon in publishing, the scale of the edits drew sharp criticism from free-speech groups like the writers’ organization PEN America and from authors like Salman Rushdie.

Rushdie, who lived under the threat of death from Iran’s Islamic regime for years over the alleged blasphemy of his novel “The Satanic Verses,” called the revisions “absurd censorship.”

Rushdie, who was attacked and seriously injured last year at an event in upstate New York, tweeted the news of Penguin’s change of heart on Friday with the words “Penguin Books backs down after Roald Dahl backlash!”

PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel wrote on Twitter: “I applaud Penguin for listening to the critics, taking the time to rethink this and coming to the right place.”

Camilla, Britain’s queen consort, appeared to offer her views at a literary reception on Thursday. She urged writers to “remain true to their calling, unhindered by those who wish to restrict freedom of expression or impose limits on their imagination.”

Dahl’s books, with their mischievous children, strange beasts, and often bestial adults, have sold more than 300 million copies and continue to be read by children around the world. Multiple stage and screen adaptations of her include “Matilda the Musical” and two “Willy Wonka” movies based on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” with a third in the works.

But Dahl, who died in 1990, is also a controversial figure due to the anti-Semitic comments he made throughout his life. His family apologized in 2020.

In 2021, Dahl’s estate sold the rights to the books to Netflix, which plans to produce a new generation of movies based on the stories.

Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s, said the publisher had “listened to last week’s discussion that has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions about how stories from another era can be sustained.” relevant to each new generation.”

“Roald Dahl’s fantastic books are often the first stories young children will read independently, and nurturing the rapidly developing imaginations and minds of young readers is both a privilege and a responsibility,” she said.

“We also recognize the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print,” Dow said. “By making both the Puffin and Penguin versions available, we give readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s wonderful and magical stories.”

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