Roald Dahl Threatened Editor With ‘Huge Crocodile’ If They Changed Their Words | books

One of Roald Dahl’s best-known characters was the Huge Crocodile, “a horrible, greedy, ill-tempered brute” who “want to eat something juicy and delicious”.

Now, a conversation the author had 40 years ago has surfaced, revealing that he was so appalled by the idea that publishers might one day censor his work that he threatened to send the crocodile “to devour them”.

The conversation took place in 1982 at Dahl’s home in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where he was talking to artist Francis Bacon.

“I warned my publishers that if they later change a single comma in one of my books, they will never see a word of mine again. Never! Always!” he said.

In his typically evocative language, he added: “When I am gone, if that happens, then I will wish mighty Thor to slam their heads down with his Mjolnir. Or I will send the ‘huge crocodile’ to devour them.”

He was referring to his Norwegian roots and his earlier history of “the greediest crocodile” when talking to Bacon, who apparently had the same opinion on the matter, telling him: “There should be no changes in an artist’s original work when he is killed for whatever reason.” Making the sign of the cross in mock mockery, Dahl replied, “I just hope to God that never happens to any of my writing, as I’m lying comfortably in my Viking tomb.”

Quentin Blake illustration for Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile. Photography: Quentin Blake

The conversation was recorded, with their permission, by Barry Joule, who had accompanied his friend Bacon to spend a weekend with the writer.

Dahl, who died in 1990 at age 74, was one of the most successful children’s authors of all time. But his publisher, Puffin, caused controversy this month by hiring “sensitive readers” to rewrite his books with hundreds of revisions so they “can continue to be enjoyed by everyone today.”

In the new edition of Charlie and the chocolate factory, Augustus Gloop – a chocolate glutton – is now just “huge” instead of “hugely fat”; in the tweetsDona Peste is no longer “ugly and bestial”, just “bestial”, and in the huge crocodile“we eat boys and girls” was changed to “we eat little children”.

Salman Rushdie, the Booker Prize-winning novelist, is among many who have condemned such censorship as “absurd”, while Puffin has reportedly been inundated with complaints from the public.

On Thursday, Camilla, the queen consort, appeared to weigh in on the debate. At a Clarence House reception for its online book club, she told the authors: “Please remain true to your calling, unhindered by those who wish to restrict the freedom of your expression or impose limits on your imagination.”

Responding to the criticism, the editors announced on Friday that they will publish both original texts and reworked editions.

Recalling the weekend of 1982, Joule said that both Dahl and Bacon were “pleasantly lubricated with booze and in good spirits”, and that talk of “red line post mortem changes in any artist’s work” generated a loud and loud debate. passionate.

skip the newsletter promotion

He said that Dahl was “slamming his fist so hard that all the glasses shook and the wine spilled” and Bacon hit the wineglass so hard that “I thought he was going to break it”.

The weekend followed the publication of Dahl’s now classic revolting rhymesand Joule recalled that both he and Bacon were given copies.

He said: “Totally proud of the subject, (Dahl) informed us: ‘You know, it was Marx and Lenin who started this political correctness crap in 1917 and, by God, it’s seeping into this country.’

“Suddenly he picked up my copy and flipped through several pages, where the right-hand side featured a beautiful comic drawing by Quentin Blake of Ms. Little Red Riding Hood wearing a heavy wolfskin coat. ‘For example, look here – panties!’ he exclaimed (on the line ‘She pulls a pistol out of her panties’) and pressed the nail of his index finger under the eight letters so hard that a mark was left behind… remarking: ‘I suppose if the Political Correctness Police could get this, they ‘would change the dirty word to ‘women’s underwear apparel’ in an instant!’ Francis frowned and grinned at such an outrageous possibility.

Joule regularly recorded his conversations with Bacon, and that weekend in 1982, Dahl also agreed to turn on a tape recorder. Fortunately, Joule also transcribed the conversation because the recording was inadvertently destroyed shortly afterwards.

He recalled that it was also at the weekend that Bacon was surprised to discover that Dahl was one of his first collectors, at a time when the artist was still struggling in the 1940s and 50s: “The astonished painter noted in a soft, serious voice , looking directly at the writer: “I knew there was someone out there buying my first pieces, but I had no idea it was you.” You couldn’t help but be deeply moved by the importance of this special occasion.”

Leave a Comment