The se­crets of the un­stop­pable lothario

Mail Today - - WORLDLY WISE -

REAL witches, the au­thor Roald Dahl be­gan one of his nu­mer­ous best-sell­ing chil­dren’s books, ‘dress in or­di­nary clothes. They live in or­di­nary houses and they work in or­di­nary jobs’.

It was a warn­ing to his young read­ers that, in the adult world, all is not what it seems. Be­neath the sur­face, dark se­crets lurk. It was a fair com­men­tary on his own life, too. Be­hind the bril­liant nov­els that have caught the imag­i­na­tion of mil­lions of chil­dren with their thrills and chills was a com­plex in­di­vid­ual with many dif­fi­cult and in­deed down­right rot­ten char­ac­ter­is­tics about him.

This gi­ant man (a lum­ber­ing 6ft 6in) was laid low by per­son­al­ity flaws that are im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore his dark side brought to light this week when it was re­vealed the Royal Mint de­cided against hon­our­ing his achieve­ments by ded­i­cat­ing a British coin to him. The sug­ges­tion of Dahl’s im­age was made in 2014 but, ac­cord­ing to pre­vi­ously undis­closed min­utes, rejected by a bank sub-com­mit­tee be­cause of Dahl’s anti-Semitic views.

This is not a charge Dahl (who died in 1990 aged 74) or his many fans, the ma­jor­ity of whom will find this unac­cept­able and al­most in­cred­i­ble, could deny. He was quite open about his prej­u­dice, telling the In­de­pen­dent news­pa­per in an in­ter­view af­ter Is­raeli forces bombed Beirut, ‘I’m cer­tainly anti-Is­rael and I’ve be­come an­ti­Semitic.’

He was even more in­flam­ma­tory when he told the New States­man, ‘There is a trait in the Jewish char­ac­ter that does pro­voke an­i­mos­ity. There’s al­ways a rea­son why anti-any­thing crops up. Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them [the Jews] for no rea­son.’His views caused con­ster­na­tion among his loyal but hurt read­ers, no­tably in the United States.

With an un­canny knack for see­ing the world from a child’s point of view, he churned them out from the hut in the gar­den of his home in Buck­ing­hamshire and they made him one of the world’s best-known au­thors, with sales that would eas­ily top 200 mil­lion. But suc­cess, fame and money did not make him any nicer.

Roald Dahl brought magic into chil­dren’s lives with books such as Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­tory.

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