Tim Minchin says editing texts is a ‘slippery slope problem’ in wake of Roald Dahl debate

·2-min read

Tim Minchin has shared his view on the issue of editing texts in the wake of discussions about changing the language in Roald Dahl’s novels.

The musician composed the stage musical version of Matilda, adapted from Dahl’s 1988 book about a neglected, intelligent girl with telekinetic powers.

Earlier this year, an investigation found that some of the author’s books had been rewritten to remove controversial language.

In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for example, Augustus Gloop is now described as “enormous” rather than “fat”.

Minchin, who has worked with Dahl properties on several occasions, was asked his opinion on the conversation about whether texts should be altered for sensitivity reasons in a new interview with The Guardian.

“It seems there’s an incredible slippery slope problem with editing texts,” he began. “I mean, my initial reaction, when I heard about it? ‘Now we’ll have to get all the rapes out of all the history books. Then the world will be a better place.’”

Minchin, 47, went on to state that the concept of changing language has less to do with morality than it does with financial gain.

“It’s an interesting part of modern progressivism, that a huge amount of change is happening because corporations have identified where their bottom line is best served,” he explained.

Tim Minchin (Getty Images)
Tim Minchin (Getty Images)

“Problem one, as I see it? If you do this once, you’ll have to do it to all texts ever, taking out all the words that might upset people.

“Problem two? You’ll have to change it all again in five years when the new words you put in are out of vogue. So that’s two slippery-slope problems. You’re standing at the top of a double slide. And now you’re spraying soap on the f***ing things.”

Following a backlash to the revelation of Dahl’s books being changed, Puffin said it would retain the “new” versions of Dahl’s books but also offer original editions.

It was later announced that some Agatha Christie books, including Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries, would also be rewritten for modern sensitivities.