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Camilla forces U-turn in Roald Dahl censorship row

The Queen Consort let it be known that she championed the right of freedom of expression at a speech at Clarence House

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 24 February 2023 12:24 GMT
Philip Pullman addresses controversial Roald Dahl edits

The Queen Consort has forced publisher Puffin UK to back down on its censorship of Roald Dahl books after she intervened in the row over the decision to edit his words.

Camilla gave an impassioned defence of free speech and the right of writers to express themselves at Clarence House on Thursday 23 February, just days after she let it be known privately that she had serious concerns over the changes to Dahl’s books.

Last week, it emerged that the best-selling children’s books were being rewritten to remove language considered offensive.

The word “fat”, for example, had been cut from every book. Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is instead described as “enormous”, an investigation by The Telegraph found.

Puffin has now issued a statement announcing that it will make both the original and censored versions available to readers.

Francesca Dow, MD of Penguin Random House Children’s – which owns Puffin UK – said it has “proudly” published Roald Dahl’s “mischievous” books for more than 40 years.

“We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has 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,” she said.

“As a children’s publisher, our role is to share the magic of stories with children with the greatest thought and care.”

Dow said it was “both a privilege and a responsibility” to publish books for children and that Dahl’s books were often the first stories young children would read independently.

“We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print. By making both versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories.

“Roald Dahl once said: ‘If my books can help children become readers, then I feel I have accomplished something important.’ At Puffin, we’ll keep pursuing that ambition for as long as we make books.”

Britain’s Camilla, Queen Consort, meets meets children’s author Jacqueline Wilson (AFP/Getty)

In her speech to mark the second anniversary of her literary initiative Reading Room at Clarence House, Camilla urged writers “to remain true to your calling, unimpeded by those who may wish to curb the freedom of your expression or your imagination”.

In what was interpreted as her disapproval of the changes made to the text of Dahl’s classic books, the Queen Consort said: “Let there be no squeaking like mice but only roaring like a pride of lions!”

The decision to censor Dahl’s books also attracted sharp condemnation from a number of leading literary voices, including Salman Rushdie, who called the edits “absurd”.

“Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed,” he tweeted.

American author Michael Shellenberger also criticised the changes, branding them a case of “totalitarian censorship”.

“The publisher of the books of the late Roald Dahl has made hundreds of changes to them, supposedly to make them more palatable to ‘sensitive’ audiences,” he wrote. “This is totalitarian censorship and should be broadly condemned by authors and publishers.”

The Roald Dahl Classic Collection will now sit alongside the newly released Puffin Roald Dahl books for young readers, which are designed for children who may be reading on their own for the first time.

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