U.S. actor Tom Hanks has weighed into the ongoing literary censorship debate, vowing to boycott any book that has been re-written by publishers to avoid offense in the modern day.
In an interview broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday to promote his debut novel, the Forrest Gump star insisted that everyone is capable of being mature enough to appreciate the historical context during which literature has been published, and said people should be allowed to decide what they are offended by rather than publishing houses re-writing classic literary works.
“I’m of the opinion that we’re all grown-ups here, and we understand the time and the place and when these things were written. It’s not very hard at all to say: That doesn’t quite fly right now, does it?” Hanks told listeners.
“Let’s have faith in our own sensibilities here, instead of having somebody decide what we may or may not be offended by.
“Let me decide what I am offended by and not offended by. I would be against reading any book from any era that says ‘abridged due to modern sensitivities.'”
Hanks offered his remarks following the recent decisions taken by Puffin Books and the Roald Dahl Story Company to re-publish Roald Dahl’s children’s classics including “Matilda,” “James and the Giant Peach,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
The story received widespread international condemnation with authors including Salman Rushdie saying the edits amount to “absurd censorship” and the publishers “should be ashamed.”
Edits of Roald Dahl children stories to reflect modern sensitivities akin to ‘absurd censorship,’ critics say
Oompa Loompas are now gender-neutral, Augustus Gloop is no longer fat, and Matilda now reads Jane Austen instead of Rudyard Kipling in just some of the edits implemented by Puffin Books and the Roald Dahl Story Company
The U.S. actor also criticized his own publishing house, Penguin Random House, after it announced last month it was re-writing the works of PG Wodehouse due to some references now being deemed “unacceptable” to the modern palate.
The publisher also provided disclaimers to its 2023 republication of P.G. Wodehouse’s “Thank you, Jeeves,” which read: “Please be aware that this book was published in the 1930s and contains language, themes and characterizations which you may find outdated.
“In the present edition we have sought to edit, minimally, words that we regard as unacceptable to present-day readers.”
Hanks joins literary heavyweights such as Sir Michael Morpurgo who called on publishers last month to leave classic texts alone and stop “nitpicking.”
“I think that it’s really important for children to read books and have some sense of when the books were written. You just cannot go on rewriting Dickens and rewriting Shakespeare to suit people,” he added.