The books so many people grew up with are being changed in a move that critics are calling censorship.
Roald Dahl’s books such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda” have been edited to make them more acceptable to current readers, The Associated Press reported.
The changes were made by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Random House, and adjust portions that relate to weight, mental health, gender and race.
For instance: Augustus Gloop, the gluttonous child who falls into a chocolate river as he tries to drink from it had been called “enormously fat” is now “enormous.”
In “Witches” the ordinary jobs the supernatural women used to hide behind went from being a “cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman” to working as a “top scientist or running a business.” A sentence was also added about why the witches wore wigs, saying that while they were bald, “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that,” The Washington Post reported.
In “The Fabulous Mr. Fox” “black” was removed from the description of the tractors with the machines being called “murderous, brutal-looking monsters,” the AP reported.
In “James in the Giant Peach” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Cloud-Men and Oompa Loompa being called “small men” are now Cloud-People and small people respectively, the Post reported.
Author Salman Rushdie called the changes “absurd censorship” saying that the publishers and Dahl’s “estate should be ashamed.”
The Roald Dahl Story Co. manages Dahl’s copyright and trademarks and made the changes with Puffin Books, the newspaper reported. The companies worked with Inclusive Minds, a group that pushes for inclusion, diversity and accessibility in children’s literature. The review of Dahl’s writing started in 2020 and the story company said that the adjustments were “small and carefully considered.”
The organization added that it is typical when reprinting books that they are reviewed.
“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,” a statement to the Post said.
Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, said she was “alarmed at the news” of the changes.
“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,” she wrote on Twitter.
She cited changes that were also made to Dr. Seuss’ books that were pulled from shelves “entirely out of concern for causing offense, a regrettable outcome that is rarely, if ever, justified.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticized the changes. A spokesman for Sunak said that works of fiction should be “preserved and not airbrushed,” BBC News reported.
Philip Pullman, author of “His Dark Materials” told BBC Radio 4 that if Dahl’s books are offensive, then they “should be allowed to fade away,” adding, “if Dahl offends us, let him go out of print. Read all these [other] wonderful authors who are writing today, who don’t get as much of a look-in because of the massive commercial gravity of people like Roald Dahl.”
But some are cheering the changes.
Poet Debjani Chatterjee told the BBC that it is “a very good thing that the publishers are reviewing his work.”
“I think it’s been done quite sensitively. Take the word ‘fat.’ They’ve used ‘enormous.’ If anything, I actually think ‘enormous’ is even funnier,” Chatterjee said.
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