Should Roald Dahl’s works be edited for sensitivity?
British publisher Puffin Books has altered and eliminated words deemed inappropriate in over a hundred passages in two works by children’s author Roald Dahl. For example, in the new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the gluttonous Augustus Gloop is no longer described as "enormously fat" but merely as "enormous". Critics speak of censorship. Europe’s press joins in the fray.
Other works will soon be subject to the same treatment, Il Manifesto scoffs:
“Pippi Longstocking could be next, she’s long been condemned as uneducational. And shouldn’t the Little Prince be accompanied by an understanding parental figure? After all, you don’t walk the skies alone. And what about Grimm’s fairy tales, in which ugliness is often associated with cruelty and baseness? Polemicising against the imagination has a long tradition; nevertheless, as [children’s author Gianni] Rodari wrote, ‘fairy tales are not meant to raise well-behaved, diligent individuals, but to fire the imagination’. ... Just be sure to keep your old copies.”
In a free world there must also be room for bad thoughts, protests De Volkskrant:
“Unlike publishers, children know very well that Roald Dahl’s words are meant to be read aloud at storytime, and do not necessarily correspond to reality. ... It’s the adults who no longer know what fiction is. ... The paternalistic encouragement to nurture only beautiful thoughts is not confined to children’s souls. ... Sensitivity readers, who are supposed to protect sensitive minds from evil influences, are also on the rise in this country. No words are too strong in warning against this. Democracy only thrives with free thinking, and that includes bad thoughts.”
Authors rewrite their own works too
Who has the right to oppose the changes, asks ABC:
“Such impulses have always existed. Thousands of originals no longer exist because it is impossible to know what they were like in the beginning. The authors themselves rewrite their works over and over again in the course of their lives. ... Who is entitled to lodge a complaint? ... Can anyone officially protest if the heirs, who are delighted over the whole affair, don’t do so? Some private organisation or foundation? The state? Would they want to?”