Writer Salman Rushdie has complained about language changes in numerous new editions of Roald Dahl's books by the publisher. The interventions in the work were "absurd censorship" by a "botched sensitivity police," criticized Rushdie on Monday in the short message service Twitter.
Puffin Publishing has made hundreds of changes to the characters and wording in Dahl's books. For example, Augustus Glupsch from the children's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is no longer described as fat, but as strong; the small Oompa-Loompers are now defined gender-neutral.
Rushdie criticized a growing trend for publishers to hire extra staff to review potentially hurtful content about gender, race, weight, violence or mental health.
A spokesman for the Roald Dahl Story Company, which owns the rights to the complete work, told critics it was perfectly normal to "review" the language in books for new editions. The guiding principle when reviewing Dahl's texts was to retain the "sharp-edged nature of the original".
Rushdie explained that Dahl was a "confessed anti-Semite with explicitly racist tendencies" and was therefore "no angel" - but the publisher's interventions in the work were "absurd censorship".
Suzanne Nossel, head of the panel for freedom of expression at the writers' association PEN America, was also "alarmed" by the publisher's changes. One of the problems with omitting formulations that might not correspond to the spirit of the times is the "dilution of narrative power". Those who were happy about the changes to the work should imagine how they would feel when the changes didn't reflect their values.
Other critics have argued that it is precisely the provocative nature of Dahl's writing that has ultimately made it as successful as it is. Roald Dahl's books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide, and some film adaptations of his works have been box-office hits.