Publisher rolls back proposed changes to Roald Dahl books after backlash
The revisions were meant to make some of Dahl's beloved books more inclusive.
The publisher behind Roald Dahl's children's books announced Friday it will keep printing the original text of the late author's beloved titles, rolling back proposed changes that had recently sparked backlash from some members of the literary community.
"We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation," Francesca Dow, a managing director at Penguin Random House Children’s Books, said in part, in a statement.
"We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print. By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvelous stories," Dow added.
The celebrated children's book author was the mastermind behind bestsellers such as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "James and the Giant Peach," "Matilda" and "The BFG."
"The Roald Dahl Classic Collection" from the Penguin imprint will feature the original texts of 17 of Dahl's children's books while the publisher said they would also keep the recently published and separate Roald Dahl books for young readers under the Puffin imprint. The Puffin versions of Dahl's books are meant for younger readers who are new to reading.
The updates to Dahl's works under Penguin had meant to be more inclusive, progressive and more acceptable to today's readers.
Phrases like "mothers and fathers" in Dahl's "Matilda," first published in 1988, could have been replaced with "parents" while some descriptions of "fat" characters could have been edited or removed entirely. Description of women's jobs were also subject to change.
"It's not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details," a spokesman for The Roald Dahl Story Company had previously told ABC News, adding, "Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text."
The British newspaper The Telegraph was first to report the changes.
The development had sparked backlash from the literary community, with author Salman Rushdie writing on Twitter, "Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed."
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel had also weighed in on the controversy, writing in part in a Twitter thread, "The problem with taking license to re-edit classic works is that there is no limiting principle. You start out wanting to replace a word here and a word there, and end up inserting entirely new ideas (as has been done to Dahl's work)."
Author Matthew Dennison, who wrote the biography "Roald Dahl: Teller of the Unexpected," added, "If you soften or make bland some of those choices of language then perhaps you undermine the badness of the so-called bad characters, which pulls the rug from under the plot. So I think it is perfectly possible that changes to Dahl's wording actually somehow shrink the impact of the stories, make the stories less powerful."
The language within Dahl's works were reviewed in partnership with publisher Puffin and Inclusive Minds, a collective with a mission to make children's literature more inclusive, diverse and accessible. Inclusive Minds said the changes had been "small and carefully considered," according to The Associated Press.
Although his works have been revered and loved by young readers, fans have had to reckon with Dahl, who died in 1990, and his works over the years. The author made antisemitic remarks during his lifetime and his family and estate have apologized for them in the past.