Puffin will continue bringing to market unaltered versions of Roald Dahl’s children’s books. The publisher announced its turnabout on Friday, February 24th, following much outcry, which included an impassioned defense of writers’ freedom of expression by British Queen Consort Camilla.
The publisher, due to the backlash—which it might or might not have instigated to raise the dead author’s profile and thus boost sales—has opted to change its strategy, as it will keep the original versions of Dahl’s children’s books available, together with the ‘amended’ ones.
On Friday, Penguin, which owns Puffin, announced it would keep producing the original versions because they “recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print.”
Francesca Dow, managing editor at Penguin, added:
At Puffin we have proudly published Roald Dahl’s stories for more than 40 years in partnership with the Roald Dahl Story Company. Their mischievous spirit and his unique storytelling genius have delighted the imaginations of readers across many generations.
The original editions, under the label ‘The Roald Dahl Classic Collection,’ will be available before the end of the year.
As reported by The European Conservative a week ago, new editions, in consultation with so-called ‘sensitivity readers,’ would replace or simply remove ‘offensive’ or ‘abusive’ words such as “ugly” and “fat.” In a bid to make the works more ‘inclusive,’ “chambermaid” becomes “cleaner,” while “cloud men” become “cloud people.”
In other sections, material was added. In The Witches, Dahl’s description of witches as all being bald under their wigs merited the addendum that “there are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is nothing wrong with that.”
The Queen Consort commented on the issue at an event marking the second anniversary of ‘Reading Room,’ her literary initiative. Days before, she had privately voiced concern over the hundreds of changes planned for the children’s books of Roald Dahl, one of her favorite authors.
At the event at her Clarence House residence, the Queen Consort called on the writers attending to
please remain true to your calling, unimpeded by those who may wish to curb the freedom of your expression or impose limits on your imagination. Enough said! But let there be no squeaking like mice about your achievements, but only roaring like a pride of lions.
Her remarks, according to The Daily Mail, were “greeted by laughter and cries of ‘hear, hear’.” In attendance were about 150 luminaries of the literary world, among which Simon Sebag Montefiore, Philippa Gregory, Ben Okri, Richard Osman, William Boyd, Philippa Gregory, Charlie Mackesy, Victoria Hislop, and Sebastian Faulks.
After the speech, according to The Independent, a source close to Camilla said she was “shocked and dismayed” over the publisher’s tampering with Dahl’s words, as she believes that writers’ freedom to practice their art must at all times be protected.
Earlier, British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie had condemned the trend, with even British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joining in. “When it comes to our rich and varied literary heritage the prime minister agrees with the BFG that we shouldn’t ‘gobblefunk’ around with words,” his spokesperson said, referencing a term Dahl had invented and means playing around with language.
“It is important that works of literature, works of fiction, are preserved and not airbrushed,” they added.