Irish language translation will not be changed, says publisher
Augustus Gloop will still be ‘ramhar’ in Irish-language versions of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s books.
Nor will the publisher of the Irish translation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory be making any further changes to soften depictions of ‘na hÚmpa-Lumpaigh’ or Oompa-Loompas, Willie Wonka’s workforce at the chocolate factory.
“We have no plans for a review — the thumbscrews are not being applied,” Darach Ó Scolaí of publishers Leabhar Breac in An Spidéal, Co Galway, told the Sunday Independent.
Over the past week, debates have raged about changes made by main publishers Puffin to new editions of Dahl’s stories to make them more ‘suitable’ for young readers.
‘We do sell quite a lot of Dahl in Irish — in the thousands’
The review began back in 2020 when the Dahl estate was still in the control of his family, and concluded when Netflix acquired the Roald Dahl Story Company.
Britain’s queen consort Camilla and the writer Salman Rushdie have criticised moves to tone down the books, while Britain’s prime minister Rishi Sunak suggested it was an attack on free speech.
However, author Debjani Chatterjee told the BBC World Service that the changes had been done quite sensitively, and argued that using ‘enormous’ for ‘fat’ to describe young Augustus Gloop made the character even funnier.
Reacting to the backlash, Puffin said original versions would continue to be published alongside revised versions.
Publisher Leabhar Breac has released translations of four of Dahl’s favourite children’s stories, and has two more in preparation.
Leabhar Breac, which was founded by Darach and Caomhán Ó Scolaí in 1994, secured rights to publish Charlie agus Monarcha na Seacláide, Na Gamail (The Twits), Na Cailleacha (The Witches) and Danny, Seaimpín an Domhain (Danny, Champion of the World).
It has plans to publish two more of Dahl’s stories in Irish: Matilda and An Crogall Mór Millteach (The Enormous Crocodile).
“We are aware of the debate, but it hasn’t affected us so far,” Ó Scolaí said. “We do sell quite a lot of Dahl in Irish — in the thousands.”
Ó Scolaí said it had not been asked to make amendments as part of its rights agreement, and so ‘na hÚmpa-Lumpaigh’ will still be called ‘little people’, and Augustus Gloop will remain ‘ramhar’.
“It’s never really a question of changing a word when the whole text takes a particular tone, and it’s not the first time that Dahl’s work has attracted criticism,” said Ó Scolaí, pointing out that the writer’s storylines were both ironic and absurd.
“This is certainly one way of keeping Dahl’s works in the public eye,” he said.
It is not the first time there has been controversy over the Welsh-born writer Dahl, who died in 1990 aged 74.
In 2020, Dahl’s family issued a belated apology for his history of anti-Semitism.
In early editions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa-Loompas were African pygmies, rescued by Wonka from the terrible conditions they were in, and in later editions they were white skinned with golden hair.
‘This is certainly one way of keeping Dahl’s works in the public eye’
French publisher Gallimard has also said it has no plans to amend Dahl’s texts, as Seán Tadhg Ó Garbí, editor of the online news publisher Tuairisc, points out. He said Irish was no less immune to the debate over political correctness.
“Debate about these issues in the Irish language would be largely in line with what is going on elsewhere, which is probably a sign of vitality,” Ó Garbí said.
“Attitudes to Irish are complex, as we saw last week with the mild hysteria that followed Paul Mescal’s interview in Irish on the red carpet at the Bafta awards.
“In the past, the language was often overburdened by competing claims made on its behalf. Sometimes, for example, it was saddled with the idea that it was a moral good in itself, somehow more pure than English.
“There was a time, for example, when we had the bizarre situation where the English translation of Brian Merriman’s Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court) was banned while the original Irish version was being taught in schools.
“Most people will agree with Darach Ó Scolaí’s sensible stance — and Irish language literature is lucky to have such an eloquent and principled advocate, but the fact that these issues are being discussed in Irish on their own terms is a good thing.”