Home/ News / World/  Why are Roald Dahl's books being rewritten? UK PM Rishi Sunak, others fume over ‘gobblefunk’ edits

In an era of political correctness and inclusivity, British novelist Roald Dahl's books are getting a makeover of sorts. Publishers keenly attuned to modern sensibilities have added hundreds of changes to internationally popular books such as Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And while the tweaks went seemingly unnoticed for ages, politicians, readers and writers alike are now outraged about the situation.

Augustus Gloop is no longer fat (merely enormous), fictional characters are now furious rather than crazy and giants no longer wear cloaks that can be described as black.

The role models of book-loving child prodigy Matilda have been changed to include a female author and several dated gender stereotypes have beeb swapped out. Women who worked as typists in the early days are now "working as a top scientist". Meanwhile in The Twits “a weird African language" is no longer weird, according to the Roald Dahl Story Company.

The changes - as tracked by The Daily Telegraph - indicate that hundreds of updates have been made between 2001 and 2022. And while many would insist that Dahl was ‘no angel’ - his family apologised in 2020 for anti-Semitic remarks Dahl had made - the ‘airbrushing' of literature has not gone down well.

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“When it comes to our rich and varied literary heritage, the prime minister agrees with the BFG that we shouldn’t gobblefunk around with words. We have always defended the right to free speech and expression," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman Max Blain told reporters.

As he put it, works of fiction should be “preserved and not airbrushed."

“Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed," Mumbai-born Booker Prize winning author Salman Rushdie tweeted on Sunday.

“He was a self confessed antisemite, with pronounced racist leanings, and he joined in the attack on me back in 1989… but thanks for telling me off for defending his work from the bowdlerising Sensitivity Police," he added in a follow-up post.

The British-American novelist is no stranger to controversy and censorship, having lived for years under the shadow of a fatwa issued by Iran’s former supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, calling on Muslims to assassinate the author over his ‘blasphemous’ novel The Satanic Verses.

Fellow writer Philip Pullman -author of the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy and other well-known books said that literary works should be allowed to fade away rather than be rewritten.

According to reports however, the company which manages the copyrights and trademarks of Dahl insisted that it was not unusual to review language when reprinting books, and described any changes as "small and carefully considered".

(With inputs from agencies)

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Updated: 21 Feb 2023, 12:09 AM IST
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