Are we as weak as the ‘modern sensibilities’ advocates think we are?

Roald Dahl’s estate and publisher are “cleaning up” parts of his books so they can continue to be enjoyed by people with “modern sensibilities.” This has caused a backlash, but the changes will probably go through.

The revisions are an outrage that I hope isn’t going to be applied to all books written in the past that use descriptions from authors and norms that were the product of their times.

Published by Penguin, so it should be an undamaged version.

The gist of the thing is that apparently writing or saying anything that offends anyone on the face of the earth is immoral. Well, that view pretty much kills debate, new ideas, and most fiction.

Those advocating not offending anyone have learned the power of mob action and well-financed protests. They don’t care about the “bad words,” they care about the message itself. So they claim XYZ offends them. My response is “so what?” I have the right to say what I believe even if people don’t like it. The “modern sensibilities” advocates purport to believe, for example, that if a fat child reads about a fat child in a story, that fat child will probably be scarred for life. Sorry, I don’t buy this.

A BBC story about the changes to Dahl’s books includes the following quote:

“Laura Hackett, deputy literary editor of the Sunday Times, said she would continue to read her original copies of Dahl’s books to her children in all ‘their full, nasty, colourful glory.’

“‘I think the sort of the nastiness is what makes Dahl so much fun,’ she told 5 Live. ‘You love it when, in Matilda, Bruce Bogtrotter is forced to eat that whole chocolate cake, or you are locked up in the Chokey [a torture device] – that’s what children love.

“‘And to remove all references to violence or anything that’s not clean and nice and friendly, then you remove the spirit of those stories.'”

Salman Rushdie said on Twitter that  “Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.”

And they should be. They are doing something that I believe is unethical, misguided, and offensive.

We’re all doomed.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of an anti-KKK series of novels set in the 1950s that uses the language and beliefs of that period. If this bugs you, don’t read the four books in the series.


4 thoughts on “Are we as weak as the ‘modern sensibilities’ advocates think we are?

  1. Comedy will become impossible if this is widely adopted. Indeed, comedians have already had problems with this and ‘no-platforming’. From the smut of Bernard Manning through the majority of clever satirical humour to the gasp out loud outrage of Frankie Boyle it will be simply a desert of rainbows and unicorns and fairies. Pish.

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