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12th May 2023

Tom Hanks strongly against rewriting classic books to cater for ‘modern sensitivities’

Steve Hopkins

‘Let’s have faith in our own sensibilities here’

Tom Hanks has spoken out against publishers editing books to avoid offending “modern sensitivities”.

The Hollywood shared his thoughts on the censorship row engulfing many classic books in an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, where he was promoting his new book, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece.

Arts Correspondent Rebecca Jones asked the Toy Story actor for his thoughts on the retroactive editing of dead authors such as Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie and the hiring of sensitivity readers to make works “less offensive”. Words like, “fat”, “mad” and “old Hag” have been removed in recent months.

The 66-year-old said he would boycott any book that was re-written and said it was up to him what he was offended by.

The Forrest Gump star told the BBC: “Well, 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.

“And it’s not very hard at all to say: that doesn’t quite fly right now, does it? Let’s have faith in our own sensibilities here, instead of having somebody decide what we may or may not be offended by.”

Hanks added: “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’ censorship comments come after Sir Michael Morpurgo last month warned publishers against rewriting classic books to suit modern sensibilities, saying if publishers “start nitpicking” language that is now deemed controversial they will “never stop”.

The award-winning children’s novelist, whose works include War Horse, Private Peaceful and Friend or Foe, argued it is “really important” that children read books and have an understanding of the time in which they were written.

The company that publishes Roald Dahl’s books – Penguin, under the Puffin label – said that an alternate classic collection will be released that will “keep the author’s classic text in print”.

The announcement came after a backlash from many who disagreed with the decision to rewrite the books.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels will also be rewritten in order to protect modern readers from the language in the original books.

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