Author Salman Rushdie on Monday decried the revisions to Roald Dahl’s children’s books by so-called sensitivity experts, calling the changes “absurd censorship.”
“Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship,” Rushdie wrote on Twitter, adding that publisher Puffin and the Dahl estate “should be ashamed.”
His critiques are the latest to come after Dahl’s publisher and the Roald Dahl Story Co. hired sensitivity readers to rewrite large sections of the late author’s texts to ensure his work will continue to be enjoyed by today’s more progressive audiences.
Dahl’s beloved children’s books, such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach,” both of which describe characters as “fat” or “ugly” will soon be cleansed.
“Words matter,” begins the notice at the bottom of the copyright page of Puffin’s latest editions of Roald Dahl’s books.
“The wonderful words of Roald Dahl can transport you to different worlds and introduce you to the most marvelous characters. This book was written many years ago, and so we regularly review the language to ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed by all today.”
Other changes made to Dahl’s works include making Oompa Loompas, once called “small men,” gender neutral. New editions of the books will now call Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory workers “small people.”
Similarly, “The Witches,” which contains a section saying witches are bald beneath their wigs now has a new disclaimer: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”
Dahl’s publisher Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company made the changes in conjunction with Inclusive Minds, a “collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature.”
The Roald Dahl Story Company insisted that the changes were necessary for a modern audience and that they would have no impact on the author’s voice and style of writing.
“Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text. Any changes made have been small and carefully considered,” a spokesperson said.
Even so, Dahl’s biographer Matthew Dennison said he’s “almost certain” the late author “would have recognized that alterations to his novels prompted by the political climate were driven by adults rather than children.”
Rushdie, 75, the author of “The Satanic Verses” spoke out earlier this month for the first time since being viciously stabbed last summer at a literary event in western New York.
The attack came after Rushdie had gone into hiding for a decade after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his death in 1989 over his book.
Rushdie, who has written 21 books, said he suffers post-traumatic stress from the brutal attack, which left him partially blind in one eye.