Crunch time: the day Roald Dahl spoke to Francis Bacon about the threat of censorship

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The children’s author Roald Dahl once found an unlikely confidant in the artist Francis Bacon, according to the Observer which reports that the pair once discussed the delicate topic of censorship.

Dahl told the artist during a meeting in 1982 that he would set one of his most popular characters, the Enormous Crocodile, on his publishers if they tried to change the language used in his books. “I’ve warned my publishers that if they later on so much as change a single comma in one of my books, they will never see another word from me. Never! Ever!” he said.

The revelation is timely in the wake of the controversy over the publisher Puffin’s plan to rewrite Dahl’s books with hundreds of revisions, changing for instance the description of the character Augustus Gloop from “enormously fat” to “enormous” in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Puffin has said it will publish the original texts and reworked versions).

Bacon was just as adamant on the subject, telling Dahl: “There must be no changes to an artist’s original work when he is dead for any reason whatsoever.” The conversation was recorded by Bacon’s friend Barry Joule during a sojourn at Dahl’s home in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.

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