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Kiss Kiss

Image: © Davy D Writer

‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.’

George Orwell

Kiss, Kiss, is the title of a Roald Dahl collection of short stories, first published in 1959. As well as being known for his children’s tales, Dahl was also a prolific writer of short stories for adults. Kiss, Kiss, is my favourite of his adult compilations, described as stylish, macabre, and haunting, leaving the reader with a delicious feeling of unease. I have delved back into the book this week after the author made headline news here in the UK.

The Roald Dahl Story Company, and publishers, Puffin Books, have decided to rewrite all of Dahl’s children’s stories. Their aim is to make them more accessible and protect children from some of the vocabulary Dahl used at the time the books were written.

The word, fat, has been removed from all books. Augustus Gloop, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is no longer fat, he is now enormous. The Cloud Men in James and the Giant Peach have turned into Cloud People. References to Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad have been deleted from Matilda. Mrs. Twit, in The Twits, is no longer ugly, and beastly, just beastly.

These editorial decisions have been cited as censorship in some quarters. A fierce debate, around how literature and works of fiction are preserved in their original form and not airbrushed, is ongoing.

Censorship in Literature

The censorship of books is not a new phenomenon. Consider the following:

Twelfth Night (1601) William Shakespeare

Ulysses (1922) James Joyce

Brave New World (1932) Aldous Huxley

The Catcher in the Rye (1951) J.D. Salinger

To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) Harper Lee

Bridge to Terabithia (1977) Katherine Paterson

All have been banned or censored, at some stage, in their published history. In 1944, George Orwell’s essay, Benefit of Clergy (Orwell’s views on Salvador Dali), intended for The Saturday Book, an annual miscellany of art and literary life in Britain, was suppressed on grounds of obscenity. Although, the essay is nowhere to be found in the publication, Benefit of Clergy is still listed in the content section.  

Are Dahl’s Words Unsafe for Children?

I have seen first-hand the impact Dahl’s stories have had on the younger generation. His book, Stories and Verses for Children, became a nightly read for my daughter growing up. The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, was a regular family day out during summer school holidays. We sat in the same chair where Dahl crafted his classical tales.

Anyone who believes children need protection from the language Dahl used should visit the museum. There, they will see hordes of children mesmerised during Dahl story telling sessions. They could join in with the same children bouncing on the BFG’s (Big Friendly Giant) footprints which guide people from the museum, through the streets of Great Missenden, to his burial place in the cemetery of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church.

This whole episode has left me biffsquiggled and crodsquinkled. So much so, I have gone out and bought a collection of sixteen of his children’s stories, in the words he wrote them. They are looking down at me from one of the shelves in my library. I am not quite sure whether the collection looks fat, or enormous, squeezed into the limited space. Perhaps they are just wide for their height.

What are your thoughts on the censorship of literature? Do you think the writers and publishers, involved in rewriting Dahl’s classic children’s tales, are doing the right thing? I would like to read your views.

Have a flavory-savory weekend.

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