Stop 'tampering with literature'! Publishers warned against cancelling classic authors after woke rewrites

Lucy Frazer

Woke rewrites of classic books 'deprives children of valuable lessons on right and wrong', the Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport has warned

Georgina Cutler

By Georgina Cutler

Published: 29/09/2023

- 21:59

Publishers have faced criticism for rewriting classic books after some words were 'deemed offensive'

Woke rewrites of classic books "deprive children of valuable lessons on right and wrong", the Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport has warned.

Lucy Frazer claims "tampering with literature" denies people "precious cultural heritage" as she warns publishers against cancelling authors.

Her comments come after books by authors such as Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton have recently been altered by their publishers.

In some instances, certain words and phrases which they now deem to be offensive have been removed.

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However, the MP for South East Cambridgeshire says rewriting old texts is "infantilising".

"By sanitising stories we risk endangering this kind of enjoyment for future generations," she wrote in an opinion piece for the ConservativeHome website.

"In recent years a number of publishing houses have taken to revisiting old literature, like Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie, to censor descriptions that are not consistent with today’s modern sensitivities.

"This use of so-called sensitivity readers to tamper with old texts is not only infantilising, in many cases it actively deprives children of characters who offer valuable lessons on right and wrong."


Last week, a teacher was sacked after she assigned her students a graphic novel version of Anne Frank’s diary to teach them about World War Two.

The graphic novel, which was released in 2018, features passages about male and female genitalia.

Anne Frank wrote about sexuality in her diary, but many publications over the years have chosen to omit these sections.

The substitute teacher did not get approval to assign Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation to her students, according to the Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District (ISD).

Collection of Roald Dahl's booksRoald Dahl's books have been altered to get rid of any "offensive" wordsFlickr

Frazer added: "Rewriting stories denies us precious cultural heritage and refusing to engage with uncomfortable truths does not make those difficult issues go away. Ignoring problems, failing to call out errors of the past, is itself damaging to society.

"We wouldn’t take history books off the shelf, so why are we taking history out of our books? Any self-respecting society should be prepared to treat people as grown ups and let them make their own minds.

"Ours has always been a society that rewards and prizes diversity of thought and opinion. But I worry that value is increasingly under threat."

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