Penguin announces ‘The Roald Dahl Classic Collection’ after outrage over censorship


Penguin has decided Roald Dahl’s books can remain intact after all.

The decision to publish “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection” comes just days after Puffin, the children’s imprint of Penguin Random House, faced an onslaught of backlash for announcing alterations of Dahl’s texts in new editions of the 20th century books. The classic collection, however, would offer readers 17 of Dahl’s original titles free of any sensitivity rewrites.

Classics like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda” and “The Witches” were sanitized to remove offensive and insensitive language. Some references to ethnicity, gender, physical characteristics and mental health were changed to adhere to more modern sensibilities.

British newspaper the Telegraph compared the original text to the altered versions and found rewrites that included using “enormous” rather than “fat” to describe Augustus Gloop in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” And in “James and the Giant Peach,” a line that read, “Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat / And tremendously flabby at that,” had been rewritten to say, “Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute / And deserved to be squashed by the fruit.”


Celebrated author Salman Rushdie, who is also published by Penguin Random House, called the move “absurd censorship,” writing on Twitter that “Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.”

PEN American Chief Executive Suzanne Nossel was another critic of the move.

“At @PENamerica we are alarmed at news of ‘hundreds of changes” to venerated works by @roald_dahl in a purported effort to scrub the books of that which might offend someone,” Nossel tweeted. “Amidst fierce battles against book bans and strictures on what can be taught and read, selective editing to make works of literature conform to particular sensibilities could represent a dangerous new weapon.”

Offensive words and phrases have been edited out of new Puffin editions of Roald Dahl’s children books like “Matilda” and “James and the Giant Peach.”

Feb. 18, 2023

And on Friday, Puffin changed its tune and released a statement offering a compromise of sorts.

“We recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print,” the statement reads. “By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories. Puffin announces today the release of The Roald Dahl Classic Collection, to keep the author’s classic texts in print.”

Nossel shared news of the classic collection on Friday in a nine-tweet thread, sharing that she and Rushdie had a conversation about the revised texts.

“Last Saturday I [sic] morning I got a note from @SalmanRushdie saying ‘This is insane, right? @roald_dahl was a bigot and he never supported me, but really? We can’t say fat or female? . . . Can we take some sort of stand against this? Or… pointless?’


“And, no, Salman, it turned out not to be pointless. ... So many of us agree on the need to build a more inclusive, equitable world, and also that that quest need not - and must not - come at the expense of free speech, truth, and reckoning with what is difficult.”