Augustus Gloop will go on being “enormously fat,” at least part of the time, after publisher Penguin Random House announced Friday it will publish “classic” versions of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and other novels written by Roald Dahl.
News of the publisher’s efforts to remove language deemed offensive from the late British author’s children’s novels with the goal of making the stories suitable for modern readers generated widespread backlash last week.
The company said that in addition to the revised editions, 17 of Dahl’s books will be published in their original form later this year as “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection,” The Associated Press reported, citing the company stating that “readers will be free to choose which version of Dahl’s stories they prefer.”
Penguin Random House did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
The company’s Puffin children’s label altered passages in Dahl’s books relating to weight, mental health, gender and race to make the titles more palatable to today’s sensibilities. The move is not uncommon with older books, but the number of edits and books involved drew criticism.
In addition to the changed description of the gluttonous Gloop in the 1964 novel later made into movies starring Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, The Roald Dahl Story Company, which controls the rights to the books, said it worked with Penguin’s Puffin children’s label to revise books like “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “James and the Giant Peach,” because it wanted to ensure that “Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.”
In “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the word “black” was removed from a description of the “murderous, brutal-looking” tractors. In “Witches,” an “old hag” became an “old crow,” and a supernatural female posing as an ordinary woman may be a “top scientist or running a business” instead of a “cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman.”
The changes were not universally welcome.
Author Salman Rushdie, who lived in hiding for years under threat of death from Iran’s Islamic regime because of the alleged blasphemy of his novel “The Satanic Verses,” called the revisions “absurd censorship.”
Rushdie, who last year survived a stabbing attack, celebrated the decision with a tweet, “Penguin Books back down after Roald Dahl backlash!”
“Thanks to his clarion voice and that of others @PenguinBooks UK today announced that it would continue to publish unedited versions of Dahl’s classic works. Readers can choose which they want,” PEN America chief executive Suzanne Nossel posted on Twitter, crediting Rushdie with contacting her and urging the organization to object to the changes. “I applaud Penguin for hearing out critics, taking the time to rethink this, and coming to the right place.”