Speed Reads

'readers will be free to choose'

Penguin Random House to publish 'classic' Roald Dahl books after censorship criticism

Publisher Penguin Random House has announced plans to publish "classic" unedited versions of several of Roald Dahl's children's books after it faced criticism over its intentions to adjust the text to be more suitable for modern readers, The Associated Press reports. 

The company said it would publish 17 of the author's books in their original form as The Roald Dahl Classic Collection along with the planned edited versions so "readers will be free to choose which version of Dahl's stories they prefer." The decision to offer both versions comes after the publisher faced backlash for changing passages related "to weight, mental health, gender, and race" in some of Dahl's classics under the company's Puffin children's label, AP says. 

In one example, the publishers altered the description of Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to "enormous"  instead of "enormously fat." The Roald Dahl Story Company, which controls the rights to Dahl's books, told AP that it worked with the publisher to review and update the texts because it wanted to ensure that "Dahl's wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today."

While it isn't unheard of for publishing companies to alter old books for "modern sensibilities," AP writes, "the scale of the edits drew strong criticism from free-speech groups such as writers' organization PEN America, and from authors including Salman Rushdie." Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children's, said the ensuing debate over censorship "reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl's books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation."

"We also recognize the importance of keeping Dahl's classic texts in print," Dow added, per AP. "By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl's magical, marvelous stories."