by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Charles Cooke of National Review Online laments the effort to rewrite the works of his favorite childhood author.
No more Roald Dahl meant the unthinkable: no more books by Roald Dahl. Until that point, I had simply assumed that Dahl would keep churning them out forever. Suddenly, it was over.
Or, rather, it ought to have been over. Because, alas, nothing is ever really over once the utopians get involved, and, in their endless quest to re-sculpt the past in their own image, those utopians are now coming for Roald Dahl, too. Per the London Telrgraph, Dahl’s publisher, Puffin, in preparing new editions of Dahl’s books, “has made hundreds of changes to the original text, removing many of Dahl’s colourful descriptions and making his characters less grotesque.” Or, as CBS put it, “alterations to author Roald Dahl’s books have been approved, in an effort to make his books more inclusive.”
“Inclusive” of whom, I must ask? Is some of Dahl’s writing offensive? Sure, if you’re wired that way. But who cares? In free cultures, writers are permitted to be offensive, colorful, and even “grotesque” without worrying that such choices will lead to exhumation. According to Dahl’s publisher, each of the newly bowdlerized books will feature a promise of perpetual recension, in which a cabal of “sensitivity readers” will “regularly review the language to ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed by all today.” What extraordinary arrogance this is! Leave aside for a moment that such an approach to literature is, quite literally, totalitarian — need I remind you that, in 1984, Winston Smith’s job was to ensure that “every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered,” so that “nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right”? — it remains the case that there is no evidence whatsoever that Dahl’s readers were not enjoying his work in the form in which it existed at the time of his death.