There’s nothing new in having established books censored. In 2011, I wrote about the concentrated effort to have Mark Twain’s books “rewritten” and “edited” without him. Today, there is a similar effort to “rewrite” and “edit” the fine work of author Roald Dahl. These reverse efforts, after publication, to quiet the writer’s voice through “social context” editing, is absolutely the same as burning books on a wood pyre — but with the excuse of protecting children. and of being sensitive to the new emancipation of provocative social norms.
Here is the ChatGPT Plus history of the ongoing effort of Roald Dahl’s censorship after death:
“Roald Dahl is a beloved children’s author, and his books have been widely read and enjoyed for generations. However, since his death in 1990, there have been some controversies surrounding the editing of his books. Some people believe that the changes made to his books after his death have altered the spirit and intention of his original works.
One of the most notable examples of this is the removal of racist and anti-Semitic language from some of Dahl’s books. For instance, in the original version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the character of the Oompa-Loompas was described as being from the African country of “Loompaland” and having “black, shiny hair.” In later versions of the book, the descriptions were changed to make the Oompa-Loompas more culturally neutral.
Another controversy surrounding the editing of Dahl’s books relates to the portrayal of certain characters. Some people believe that the changes made to the characters in the books have altered their personalities and motivations, making them less complex and less interesting.
Overall, the controversy surrounding the editing of Roald Dahl’s books after his death highlights the debate over the role of editors in preserving the integrity of an author’s work. While some argue that changes should be made to make the books more politically correct or culturally sensitive, others believe that these changes detract from the original vision of the author and undermine the legacy of their work.”
ChatGPT Plus also provides detailed examples of changes that have already been made to Roald Dahl’s books after his death:
“The exact year of the edits to Roald Dahl’s books is not clear, as the changes were made gradually over time. However, it’s likely that some of the edits were made in the 1990s and early 2000s, as publishers became more aware of the need to make books more culturally sensitive and politically correct. It’s also possible that some of the changes were made more recently, as publishers continue to review and update the text of Dahl’s books.
It’s worth noting that the process of editing and revising books is not unusual, and many authors’ works have undergone changes after their death. However, the specific controversy surrounding the edits to Dahl’s books is a result of the significant changes made to the text and the concerns about the impact these changes have had on the original intent and vision of the author.
- “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (1964): Original text: The Oompa-Loompas were described as “pygmies from Africa.” Edited text: The description of the Oompa-Loompas was changed to make them more culturally neutral, and their origins were left vague.
- “The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me” (1985): Original text: The character of Billy’s mother was described as “a horrible old hag.” Edited text: The description of Billy’s mother was changed to make her less negative and less stereotypical.
- “George’s Marvellous Medicine” (1981): Original text: The character of George’s grandmother was described as “a mean and spiteful old woman.” Edited text: The description of George’s grandmother was changed to make her less negative and less stereotypical.
These changes were made in response to concerns about the negative portrayal of certain characters and the use of racist and anti-Semitic language in Dahl’s books. While some people believe that these changes were necessary to make the books more culturally sensitive and politically correct, others argue that they detract from the original vision of the author and undermine the legacy of his work.”
As of this writing, it appears the new effort to, once again, censor Roald Dahl’s works has been postponed — or, perhaps, more specifically, “revised with notes” — in that there will be two versions of the Dahl books in republication. One version will remain unedited, and the other version — published at the same time — will include the “sensitivity edits.” I wonder which version the publisher will push most for total and complete adoption?
I next asked ChatGPT to provide other examples of authors who have been censored after their deaths.
“Roald Dahl is not the only author whose works have been edited or censored after their death. Here are some examples of other American authors who have faced similar controversies:
- Mark Twain: Some of Twain’s works, such as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” have been edited or censored after his death due to concerns about racist language and slurs used in the original text.
- Harper Lee: The publication of “Go Set a Watchman” (2015), a previously unseen manuscript by Harper Lee, sparked controversy over the editing of the text. Some people argued that the manuscript had been heavily edited and that the changes made to the text detracted from the original vision of the author.
- J.D. Salinger: After Salinger’s death, a number of previously unseen works were published, including “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans” (2015) and “Three Stories” (2015). Some people have criticized the publication of these works, arguing that Salinger would not have wanted them to be published and that they detract from the legacy of his most famous work, “The Catcher in the Rye.”
These examples show that censorship and editing of books after an author’s death is not a new issue and that it continues to be a source of controversy and debate. While some argue that changes are necessary to make books more culturally sensitive and politically correct, others believe that these changes undermine the original intent and vision of the author.”
I asked ChatGPT Plus for more specific examples of the censorship:
“Certainly, here are some examples of censorship and editing in American literature:
- “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain: Censored text: The original text contains the N-word, which was used as a racial slur. Edited text: In some editions of the book, the N-word has been replaced with the word “slave” or “servant.”
- “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee: Censored text: The original manuscript contained scenes and characters that were later edited out or changed in the publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Edited text: The published version of “Go Set a Watchman” contains changes made to the original manuscript, including the addition of new characters, the removal of certain scenes, and the alteration of certain characters’ personalities and motivations.
- “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans” by J.D. Salinger: Censored text: This previously unpublished work was written by Salinger but was not meant to be released to the public. Edited text: The published version of “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans” contains changes made to the original manuscript, including the removal of certain scenes and the alteration of certain characters’ personalities and motivations.
These examples demonstrate that censorship and editing of books can result in significant changes to the original text and can alter the original vision of the author. While some people argue that these changes are necessary to make books more culturally sensitive and politically correct, others believe that they detract from the legacy of the author and undermine the original intent of the work.”
It is completely unfathomable that there are still people left in the world who want to silence the truth that is written, and spoken, and known, and memorized, by others throughout history — especially in our time. There are those who want to fine writers for blogging about the Governor of Florida.
For those who claim to love freedom of speech and the flag — they certainly don’t appear to understand anything about the real danger of censorship that can bounce back at them and eventually silence their lies, along with the clear corruption of thought, and the invisibility of intent that their terrible intentions foment across the spectrum of human experience.
The truth hurts. Facing your terrors is uncomfortable. History is bloody and shameful. Authors can be rotten people and still write pleasing books.
Yet, there are still those among us who want to forget without forgiveness, and who also want to whitewash the entire history of a people with their own morality that overwraps any slight indignation, or indiscretion, that uncomfortably lingers.
But what these terrible people know is that if they hide the truth long enough, it will be forgotten.
But what these terrible people know is that if they burn every book and leave behind only ash, nothing will linger.
But what these terrible people know is that if you remove words that have existed for generations, and are then replaced with better words, only the best words — person, woman, man, camera, TV — there is no longer a verifiable truth; there is only obfuscation, and confusion, and chaos, and that is the world in which they intend for the rest of to perish while they clamber out of the fire to land in their own beautiful pit of living despair.