It is a revision that makes people cringe across the Channel. New editions of British children’s author Roald Dahl’s books will be edited, with the aim of removing vocabulary that might be considered offensive.
References to weight, mental health, violence, or racial or gender issues have been redacted and rewritten: these are the sensitive themes that would have been targeted, according to the conservative daily Daily Telegraph.
Thus, the term “gross” is no longer used to describe Augustis Gloop of Charlie and the chocolate factory. The “cloud men” of James and the giant peach become the “cloud people”. Changes “reduced and carefully considered”says a spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company.
From “absurd censorship”
“Roald Dahl was no angel”reacted on Twitter the British writer Salman Rushdie, icon of freedom of expression victim of a violent attack six months ago, “It’s absurd censorship”. The boss of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, an organization uniting 7,000 writers for freedom of expression, judged that “selective editing to make the words of literature conform to particular sensibilities could represent a dangerous new weapon”. The deputy editor of the conservative newspaper Sunday Times, Laura Hackett, said she would keep her original editions of Roald Dahl, so her children could “enjoy them in all their wicked and colorful glory”.
For British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, words must be “preserved” rather than “retouched”said his spokesperson on Monday, during a regular press briefing. “If Dahl offends us, let’s not reprint it”wrote writer Philip Pullman on the BBC on Monday, noting that millions of his original books would remain in circulation for many years regardless of changes made in new editions.
Retain the story, characters and spirit of the original text
“When reprinting books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used and update other things like the cover and layout”affirmed the spokesman of the Roald Dahl Company, underlining the will to preserve history, characters, and “the irreverence and sharp wit of the original text”. The Roald Dahl Story Company also said it worked with Inclusive Minds, a collective that campaigns for the inclusion and accessibility of children’s literature. The review launched in 2020 ahead of Netflix’s 2021 takeover of the children’s author’s catalog.
Roald Dahl, an essential author in the libraries of many children, died in 1990 at the age of 74. At the end of 2020, his family had apologized for the anti-Semitic remarks made by the author forty years ago. The creator of Matilda or Good Big Giant notably made openly anti-Semitic statements in an interview with the British magazine New Statesman in 1983, legitimizing anti-Semitism and seeming to find justifications for Hitler’s crimes.