Dahl books reworded

Literary Revisionism Strikes Again with Dahl Books

As a passionate book enthusiast and avid reader, I can only lament the latest delivery to the publishing world. The imagination and dark, fun characters from the genius that Roald Dahl was has been totally trashed in a publishing stunt in the name of inclusion – I guess you can’t argue with Netflix investors.

Puffin, the children’s arm of Penguin Random House Publishers hired ‘sensitivity readers’ to ‘scrutinise the text’ and modernise the narrative to suit new PC standards that a modern world apparently requires.

“Augustus Gloop is no longer fat, Mrs Twit is no longer fearfully ugly and the Oompa-Loompas have gone gender-neutral in new editions of Roald Dahl’s beloved stories. The removal of words including crazy, mad, black, white and boys and girls who are now referred to as children are just a sample of the planned reworking of the loved children’s classics” reports The Telegraph UK*.

Not just words removed, but added phrasing will change the spirit and intent of Dahl’s writing.

Having worked in the bookselling industry for twenty-five years, it has always been my understanding that publishers are the guardians of an authors’s work – to preserve the creativity and essence of their text. This new re-working of Dahl’s books is a complete butchering and a dissing of his work. Dahl even has a book dictionary collection of created words that sparks the imagination and has provided a language-rich landscape for children across the world. Dahl would be ranked number one in the list of children’s authors and has never skipped a beat when it comes to sales and introducing a new generation to the lunacy, ridiculousness and vivid descriptions that is his signature style. I’d be curious as to what he’d say if he was still alive. 

This sanitised version of Dahl’s work dulls the honesty and simplicity of works of fiction that are essential to children’s literature. Not all books need to push an ideology of a kind, harmonious world and use ‘nice words’ to give a child a ‘soft’ view of the world. Our goals should be to enrich a child’s world with variety and books saturated with descriptive language to nurture their minds – not dumb things down with a banal application to classics. 

Unfortunately, the decisions are out of reach by the Roald Dahl family now as the literary estate was sold to Netflix in 2021 for a (reported) $500 million.  Best buy the original sets now before they become obsolete and continue to read the fantastical, marvellous and whimsical Roald Dahl books in your family – push back in a world that wants to dismantle the classics. Who is next? Dr Seuss has already suffered from the blows of literary revisionism. 

Sue Reid

‘Read By Reid’ 25 years in the book industry.

*The Telegraph UK 18th Feb 2023 Anita Singh

*At the time of publication Penguin Random House NZ could not confirm release dates of the new editions nor if they will have clear information that these copies are the ‘re-works’. This is important for buyers wishing to purchase the classic editions. 

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