Public libraries in S'pore will keep original Roald Dahl books for now instead of using revised versions

No plans to remove the original versions.

Syahindah Ishak | March 05, 2023, 02:50 PM

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The original Roald Dahl books will still be available at public libraries in Singapore, instead of the rewritten versions that exclude words like "fat" and "ugly".

NLB still keeping original Roald Dahl books

A National Library Board (NLB) spokesperson told Mothership that NLB "has no plans to remove the titles currently available."

If and when new editions of the titles become available, NLB will assess the suitability of acquiring them, in accordance with its collection policy, the spokesperson added.

The collection policy takes reference from Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)'s Content Guidelines for Imported Publications.

The general principles of the guidelines state that publications should "not undermine the national interest, public security or public confidence in the law and its enforcement in Singapore."

Content related to race and religion should also "not denigrate, offend the sensitivities of, or incite intolerance or misunderstanding" among the main racial and religious groups in Singapore.

Additionally, publications that encourage, promote or glamorise "sexually permissive and alternative lifestyles" and "deviant sexual practices" are "generally not allowed".

"Teens and young persons should be protected from content likely to harm or disturb them," the guidelines stated.

Besides the public libraries in Singapore, local bookstore Books Kinokuniya has noted that Dahl's books sell "really fast" and that it no longer has stock of the old editions, CNA reported.

Revising Roald Dahl's original texts

In February 2023, The Daily Telegraph reported that publisher Puffin Books, which holds the rights to all Dahl's children's books, had hired sensitivity readers to revise the British author's original works, leading to "hundreds" of changes.

According to The Guardian, sensitivity readers "offer notes on characters from marginalised groups, or elements which may cause offence."

Some examples of the changes

Here are some notable changes made to the books, among others:

  • Augustus Gloop in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is now described as "enormous" instead of "fat".
  • The Oompa-Loompas are now gender-neutral. They are referred to as "small people" instead of "small men".
  • Mrs Twit is no longer "ugly and beastly" in "The Twits". She is now described as just "beastly".
  • In "James and the Giant Peach", rhyming verses about James’s horrible aunts have been revised:

    • "Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat/And tremendously flabby at that" was changed to "Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute/And deserved to be squashed by the fruit".
    • "Aunt Spiker was thin as a wire/And dry as a bone, only drier" was edited to "Aunt Spiker was much of the same/And deserves half of the blame".

Sparked controversy worldwide

The rewritten versions has ignited controversy around the world.

Many authors and public figures, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and UK's Queen Consort Camilla, spoke up against it.

A spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company explained:

"When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details including a book’s cover and page layout.

Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text. Any changes made have been small and carefully considered."

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