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Belgian publisher destroys 7,000 Zwarte Piet books

The controversial figure of Zwarte Piet. Credit: Belga

Belgian publisher Clavis has decided to destroy the 7,000 books they still had in stock with texts about or images of Zwarte Piet (which translates as Black Pete).

Some other books were reworked with new drawings and ‘Zwarte Piet’ was consistently changed to just ‘Piet’ (which translates as Pete), reports Het Belang van Limburg.

The Netherlands and Belgium have a long-standing tradition of celebrating the Winter holiday story of Sinterklaas, who is said to visit children’s homes to bring presents and treats on the evening of 5 (the Netherlands) or 6 (Belgium) December.

As the story goes, Sinterklaas has a helper – Zwarte Piet. Adults and children dress up as him, donning blackface and black curly wigs, painting large red lips, and often large golden earrings. The figure has been at the centre of a lot of controversies.

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As the discussions about Zwarte Piet have only intensified recently, Clavis decided to cut back on the offer, they said, adding that they noticed that authors, illustrators and bookshops were increasingly hesitant when it came to the figure.

Additionally, shopping site Bol.com also refuses to offer the books any longer. “At some point, you come to a breaking point and you have to make a decision,” the publisher said.

According to the publisher, destroying 7,000 books out of the 1.2 million that they have in stock, is not that bad.

“Of course, some people will regret this,” the publisher told De Standaard. “We can understand that – I have already received insults via e-mail. But we think the trend is irreversible. Emotions are running high sometimes, but we try to stay calm.”

The Brussels Times