Salman Rushdie helped stamp out woke plans to censor Roald Dahl’s books with a heartfelt tweet blasting the toned-down updates.
Suzanne Nossel, PEN America’s chief executive, shared in a tweet how the celebrated author reached out to her after news that Dahl’s work would be airbrushed to fit woke standards.
In a note to Nossel, Rushdie slammed the move as ‘insane’, adding: ‘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?’
Rushdie is a champion of free speech after hardline Islamists ordered him killed over his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. In August 2022, he was stabbed by an Islamist fanatic at an upstate New York literary festival, and almost lost an eye.
Outrage from Rushdie and others on Friday led Dahl publisher Penguin-Puffin to backtrack, with ‘classic’ uncensored versions of the popular children’s novels to remain on sale alongside the updated tomes.
Author Salman Rushdie, pictured, is among those to criticize the move to edit Roald Dahl’s books, slamming the move as ‘insane’
New editions of Roald Dahl’s work are being edited by ‘sensitivity gurus’ to meet woke standards
Public debate of the ‘Orwellian’ censorship of Dahl’s work has seen severe backlash launched at publishing house Puffin, ran by parent company Penguin.
The revision of the classic books, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG, will see the publisher edit out words such as ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ to appease woke standards.
Following its unpopular decision modify his books, the company announced it will now ‘keep the author’s classic texts’ in print, which will remain in circulation alongside the reworked novels.
The U-turn came in part thanks to persistent pressure from the industry itself, with PEN America representing over 7,000 people within the US writers’ network.
Revealing how Rushdie, who is a member of the organization, waded into the debate, Nossel said she immediately knew: ‘We’ve got to do something’.
Despite his questioning over whether speaking out would be ‘pointless’, she added that the un-edited work will remain in bookstores ‘thanks to his clarion voice and that of others.’
‘Readers can choose which they want… I applaud Penguin for hearing out critics, taking the time to rethink this, and coming to the right place.
‘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.
‘Here’s hoping we can freely debate other issues that divide us, sustaining a society that is open to both all people and all ideas.’
Rushdie also took to Twitter to blast the censorship of the classic children’s books himself, saying: ‘Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship.
‘Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.’
Salman Rushdie has been a leader in the fight for free speech since since his novel The Satanic Verses led the Supreme Leader of Iran Ruhollah Khomeini to declare a fatwa against him in 1989
EN America CEO Suzanne Nossel has revealed how Rushdie waded into the debate, reaching out to her to brand the move as ‘insane’
The woke editing of Dahl’s work will see Charlie and the Chocolate character Augustus Gloop be described as ‘enormous’ instead of ‘fat’, while Oompa Loompas are set to become gender neutral
How editors changed Roald Dahl’s stories
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
2001 – Mrs Salt was a great fat creature with short legs, and she was blowing like a rhinoceros
2022 – Mrs Salt was so out of breath, she was blowing like a rhinoceros
2001 – Mrs Twit may have been ugly and she may have been beastly, but she was not stupid
2022 – Mrs Twit may have been beastly, but she was not stupid.
2001 – Get your mother or father
2022 – Get your family
2001 – ‘BFG,’ she said, ‘would you please tell these rather dim-witted characters exactly what to do.’
2022 – ‘BFG,’ she said, ‘would you please tell them exactly what to do’.
THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE
2001 – We eat little boys and girls
2022 – We eat little children
2001 – ‘I beg you to tell me Mr Hoppy! I’ll be your slave for life.’
2022 – ‘I beg you to tell me Mr Hoppy! You’ll be my hero for life.’
FANTASTIC MR FOX
2001 – Bunce, the little pot-bellied dwarf, looked up at Bean…
2022 – Bunce looked up at Bean…
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
2001 – They were like a couple of hunters who had just shot an elephant
2022 – They were like a couple of hunters who had just shot their prey
Puffin said in a statement this afternoon that they will release two versions of each of Dahl’s work, one the original and the other to meet the new ‘criteria’.
Among the changes being made to Dahl’s books include editing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where Augustus Gloop will be branded ‘enormous’ instead of fat while Oompa Loompas will be made gender neutral.
Mrs Twit’s ‘fearful ugliness’ has been cut to ‘ugliness’ and Mrs Hoppy in Esio Trot is not an ‘attractive middle-aged lady’ but a ‘kind middle-aged lady’.
As well as the removal of certain words, the publisher is also adding extra passages to add woke context to the books.
For example, in The Witches, a paragraph detailing how they wore wigs because they are bald is followed by: ‘There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.’
Backlash over the changes came as new polling for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found almost two out of three Britons (60 per cent) disagree with changing language in classic children’s books and 63 per cent opposed recent changes to the books of Roald Dahl.
Just 20 per cent supported the edits.
Joining Rushdie in his criticism of the move is Queen Consort Camilla, who hit out at the decision during a reception with many of Britain’s top writers.
Amid criticism that publishers are hiring ‘sensitivity gurus’ to remove ‘offensive’ language in Dahl’s work, she said: ‘Please remain true to your calling, unimpeded by those who may wish to curb the freedom of your expression or impose limits on your imagination.’
Alongside detailing her interaction with Rushdie, Nossel admitted it was a ‘miracle that Salman is back in action’, following a horrific attempted assassination spurred by the 30-year fatwa placed on him by the ayatollah of Iran.
The attack, which took place in New York in August 2022, saw a New Jersey man with ‘sympathies toward the Iranian government’ stab the novelist ahead of a speech in Buffalo.
Witnesses claim that Rushdie was stabbed 10 to 15 times, before the alleged attacker Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested by law enforcement.
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