Roald Dahl ‘classic’ collection coming after backlash on modern editing

Dahl's books delight young and old/Shutterstock Images

25 February, 2023, New York: Buoyed by the public’s passionate response to the modernisation of Roald Dahl’s fiction, publisher Penguin Random House is acting swiftly. The company announced on Friday it will publish “classic” original versions of 17 of the author’s books.

These will be released along with the new editions that include cuts and rewrites thought to suit modern readers. The publisher said this offers readers the choice “to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvelous stories.”

This plan comes after much criticism of edits made to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and other favourite books where text relating to mental health, gender, weight and race was changed so as not to offend modern sensibilities.

Augustus Gloop, Charlie’s greedy character in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” — originally published in 1964 — became “enormous” rather than “enormously fat.” In “Witches,” a supernatural female posing as a normal woman may be a “top scientist or running a business” instead of a “cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman.”

Free speech groups and the writers’ organization PEN America, even author Salman Rushdie, were aghast at the scale and scope of the editing. The backlash story made headlines around the world recently.

Managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s, Francesca Dow, said the publisher had “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.”

“Roald Dahl’s fantastic books are often the first stories young children will read independently, and taking care for the imaginations and fast-developing minds of young readers is both a privilege and a responsibility,” she said.

Dahl died in 1990. His irreverent children’s books have sold more than 300 million copies and continue to be read by young people around the world. There are film and theatre productions based on his cheeky kid characters and strange beast creations. Netflix bought the rights to his books in 2021.

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