In comments reported by AFP on Monday, novelist Salman Rushdie criticized the “bowdlerizing sensitivity police” for engaging in “absurd censorship” by updating Roald Dahl’s children’s novels for a more contemporary audience.
By using the term “enormous” instead of “fat,” Puffin made the little Oompa-Loompas in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” gender-neutral.
The “Cloud-Men” in “James and the Giant Peach” has become the “Cloud-People,” and Mrs. Twit from “The Twits” has been renamed to reflect this change.
As so-called “sensitivity readers” are increasingly used by publishers to help spot potentially offensive references to gender, color, size, weight, violence, and mental health, this backlash is understandable.
The Roald Dahl Story Company, which Netflix now owns, issued a statement saying that it was standard practice for publishers “to examine the language used” before releasing new editions and that they had intended to do their best to keep the “irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text” intact.
Yet, the changes met with significant pushback.
After a fatwa was issued calling for his murder because of his work, Rushdie spent a significant amount of time in exile “Tolkien, who published “The Satanic Verses” in 1988, said of Dahl, “He attacked me back in 1989. He has racist and anti-Semitic views and openly proclaims them.”
While it’s true that Roald Dahl certainly has his problems, any attempt to ban his work here would be ridiculous. He said on Twitter, “Puffin Books and the Dahl family should be ashamed of themselves.”
Almost 250 million copies of Roald Dahl’s novels have been sold throughout the globe.
Just two of his stories have been successfully adapted into movies; the most recent being Matilda the Musical, which opened last year. The other is The BFG, directed by Steven Spielberg (2016).
Specifically, it refers to a type of “dark, gaudy beauty.”
A director of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, has expressed “concern” at the changes.
Selective editing to make literary works correspond to specific ideals may constitute a dangerous new weapon amid bitter disputes over book bans and other constraints on what may be taught and read.
Having the power to edit literature might be abused by others who do not share your beliefs and sensitivities, therefore those who “would praise particular alterations to Dahl’s work” should “consider how it may be utilized.”
Nossel said that censorship that “corrects for political correctness” lessens the power of literature.
When writing “His Dark Materials,” Philip Pullman criticized the impact that “sensitive readers” had on aspiring writers.
The idea is that “less well-known writers find it extremely difficult to resist the tugging towards saying this or not saying that.”
When asked about his comments on Dahl on BBC radio, he said, “If Dahl offends us, let him go out of print.” He went on to add that millions of copies of Dahl novels with the original text will stay in circulation for many years despite the adjustments made to new versions.
Nevertheless, many others maintained that the “nasty” parts were precisely what made Dahl’s works so well-liked by young readers.
For her children to “enjoy them in their full, awful, colorful splendor,” as Sunday Times deputy literary editor Laura Hackett described it on Twitter, she would be saving copies of the original books in which the revisions had been made.
Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of Nepal, chimed in.
According to a statement sent to the media, the Prime Minister “agrees with the BFG that you shouldn’t gobble funk about with words.”
In the novel, the phrase “to play around” is said to have been coined by the huge, kindly giant.