Penguin to continue to distribute unedited Roald Dahl books after oversight kickback

After criticism over the changes and rewrites it made to make Roald Dahl’s children’s books more readable for contemporary readers, Penguin Random House will now release “classic” unexpurgated editions of the works.

The Roald Dahl Classic Collection, which includes the updated versions and 17 of Dahl’s works, will be released later this year. This will allow readers to select the version of Dahl’s stories they prefer also read:

In recent versions of beloved classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that were released under the company’s Puffin children’s label, numerous alterations were made that were criticised for changing passages about weight, mental health, gender, and race.

In the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Augustus Gloop, Charlie’s gluttonous foe, changed from “enormously obese” to “enormous.” A supernatural woman acting as a regular woman might be a “top scientist or heading a business” rather than a “cashier at a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman” in the movie The Witches, where a “old hag” was transformed into a “old crow.”

The term “black” was dropped from a description of the “murderous, brutal-looking” tractors in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The Roald Dahl Story Company, which owns the book’s rights, stated that it collaborated with Puffin to examine and edit the texts to ensure that “all children today continue to enjoy Dahl’s beautiful stories and characters.”

Although updating historical novels for contemporary tastes is not a novel trend in publishing, the extent of the alterations garnered harsh condemnation from free-speech organisations like Pen America and authors like Salman Rushdie.

Rushdie, whose book The Satanic Verses was accused of blasphemy and who spent years living under the death threat from Iran’s Islamic regime, termed the alterations “absurd censorship.”

Rushdie, who was attacked and severely hurt at a New York City event last year, tweeted on Friday about Penguin’s about-face, writing: “Penguin Books back down after Roald Dahl backlash!”

Bachtyar Ali, his most recent work, and his ongoing mission to promote Kurdish literature around the world
“I congratulate Penguin for hearing out concerns, taking the time to rethink this, and getting to the right place,” Pen America CEO Suzanne Nossel wrote on Twitter.

Thursday’s literary reception featured Camilla, the Queen Consort of Britain, who appeared to express her opinion. Writers should “stay true to your calling, free from those who may seek to constrain the freedom of your expression or impose restrictions on your creativity,” she said.

With its mischievous kids, weird animals, and frequently wicked adults, Roald Dahl’s books have sold more than 300 million copies and are still being read by kids all over the world. A third Willy Wonka movie based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now under development, in addition to Matilda the Musical and the numerous stage and screen adaptations of this book.

Yet, Dahl, who passed away in 1990, is also a contentious figure due to anti-Semitic remarks he made throughout the course of his life. In 2020, his family expressed regret.

Netflix purchased the book rights from Dahl’s estate in 2021 with ambitions to adapt the stories for a new generation of movies.

Penguin Random House Children’s managing director Francesca Dow stated that the publisher had “heard the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions surrounding how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation.”

She stated that caring for young readers’ imaginations and rapidly developing minds is both a luxury and a responsibility. “Roald Dahl’s fascinating novels are typically the first story young children will read alone,” she remarked.

Additionally, Dow noted that it was crucial to maintain Dahl’s great works in print. By providing both the Puffin and Penguin editions, we give readers the freedom to choose how they want to experience Roald Dahl’s fantastical tales.



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