The secrets of the unstoppable lothario
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.