Roald Dahl: The fierce debate over rewriting children’s classics

by The Insights

Debate will no doubt continue, as will in all likelihood the practice of revising classic books although after fierce debate over Dahl’s changes Puffin announced that the works would also be reissued in their uncensored form so that readers could choose the version they preferred. . Kantor suggests another way forward. “Reissues of backlist tracks also sometimes have additional intros, as an alternative to revisions,” she says. “I think introductions are a great (and minimally invasive) tool for adding context to older texts – not necessarily for young readers, but for teachers, librarians, parents and guardians who put books between children’s hands or read aloud with them. In addition to providing a deeper understanding of the book and the era in which it was written, this kind of intro can open up interesting discussions without changing the words of the book. ‘author.”

It is perhaps worth remembering that it is not only children’s literature that is subject to this kind of revision. Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming recently had their offensive references removed. Nor is it a new practice. Charles Dickens was so stung by a Jewish reader’s hurt rebuke of his portrayal of the villainous Fagin that he cut off a reprint of Oliver Twist halfway through and deleted numerous references to Fagin as “the Jew.” “. The gentle Jewish character of Mr. Riah in Our Mutual Friend, Dickens’s last completed novel, seems to have been intended as an atonement.

And, of course, the very word “bowdlerization,” so oft-used recently, was born of the overzealous 19th-century reader of sensibility, Thomas Bowdler, rewriting Shakespeare to remove, among other things, sexual innuendo. If the Bard can be rewritten, anyone can do it too.

Find out more about BBC Culturethe 100 greatest childrenbooks :

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