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Roald Dahl’s revolting anti-Semitism Why did the author's family wait until now to issue an apology for his racism?

British novelist Roald Dahl (1916 - 1990), UK, 10th December 1971. (Photo by Ronald Dumont/Daily Express/Getty Images)

British novelist Roald Dahl (1916 - 1990), UK, 10th December 1971. (Photo by Ronald Dumont/Daily Express/Getty Images)


December 7, 2020   6 mins

That Roald Dahl hated people won’t surprise readers of The Twits.  I’m not sure he liked children either. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory he turns one child purple, shrinks another, has yet another thrown down a rubbish chute and yet another sucked up a pipe. Dahl wrote malicious novels — his females are grotesques too— and his malice was more convincing than his kindness, which seems barely felt. He’s a snob too: he likes Charlie Bucket for his humility. He can root for a family that sleeps four to a bed and remains grateful.

An old story has resurfaced: that Dahl particularly hated Jews. The Official Roald Dahl website buried an apology on its pages last week, probably because Netflix is in the process of adapting Dahl’s most famous books, and this PR problem must be addressed.

“The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements,” it said. Why do they say “hurt” and not “fear”, as if Jew hatred were merely a lapse in manners? “Those prejudiced remarks,” it goes on (“remarks” is a pale euphemism) “are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations.”

What this man they knew — and yet didn’t know — said was this, to Mike Coren of The New Statesman: “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason. I mean, if you and I were in a line moving towards what we knew were gas chambers, I’d rather have a go at taking one of the guards with me; but they [the Jews] were always submissive.”

He’s wrong. Jews have a long history of not being submissive from Mount Sinai to Masada to Warsaw; but it is interesting that submission is, for Dahl, a raging man, a characteristic he appreciates only in the Charlie Buckets of this world.

What made Dahl? Like many Jew haters his life was pitted with tragedy: anger can absolve you from pain. He was bullied at the minor public school he attended because his Norwegian parents thought he should be an English child. “In the changing room,” he wrote, “they held me down while one of them filled a bath brimful of icy-cold water, and into this they dropped me, clothes and all, and held me in there for several agonising minutes. “Push his head under water!” cried W. W. Wilson. “That’ll teach him to keep his mouth shut!”

He was an immigrant then, an outsider — like the Jews. Perhaps he felt like a solitary outsider — unlike the Jews.

So, his family didn’t know him, and Dahl’s pondering on, first, how the Holocaust was a response to “the Jewish character” and, second, how much better he would have faced the death camps than Jews, who are shamed even by the manner in which they approach their murder, has nothing to do with “the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories”. The children’s books are devoid of Jew hatred, though the Feminist and the Socialist and the genuine anti-racist — the Oompa-Loompas were originally “African pygmies” — have complaints. When the NAACP complained about the Oompa-Loompas originating in “the very deepest and darkest part of the jungle where no white man had ever been before,” Dahl turned them orange while complaining that the opposition was “real Nazi stuff”. The reliably sympathetic biographer Donald Sturrock calls their African descent, “a fanciful detail”.

Dahl loved money – perhaps he was again projecting in his hatred? – too well to write anti-Jewish children’s fiction. But his second adult novel, Fifty Thousand Frogskins, (never published) contains, “sly, knowing” Jews. The leading character in the short story Madame Rosette (1946) is, “a filthy old Syrian Jewess”.

In a letter to Dirk Bogarde, Dahl called a producer, “the wrong sort of Jew. His face is matted with dirty, black hair. He is disgustingly overweight and flaccid though only forty-something, garrulous, egocentric, arrogant, complacent, ruthless, dishonourable, lascivious, slippery.” He told the Independent in 1990: “It’s the same old thing: we all know about Jews and the rest of it. There aren’t any non-Jewish publishers anywhere, they control the media – jolly clever thing to do”.

The more sceptical biographer Jeremy Treglown wrote this about Dahl’s first novel Sometime Never (1948): “plentiful revelations about Nazi anti-Semitism and the Holocaust did not discourage him from satirizing ‘a little pawnbroker in Hounsditch called Meatbein who, when the wailing started, would rush downstairs to the large safe in which he kept his money, open it and wriggle inside on to the lowest shelf where he lay like a hibernating hedgehog until the all-clear had gone’.” But no one reads Sometime Never. The Netflix deal is secure.

I don’t care about Roald Dahl. He’s not a great artist and I suspect he knew it. He turned to children’s fiction after his career in adult fiction failed. (He suggested Kingsley Amis write for children, and when Amis said he had “no feeling for that kind of thing” Dahl replied, “Never mind, the little bastards’d swallow it”.) That he is smaller than his fiction is normal, though it’s depressing to find a man who wrote about friendly giants and magical peaches being quite so conventional in his spite.

What I do mind, though, is that as I write this piece, my seven-year-old son comes in and asks if he can read to me from Danny the Champion of the World. It’s not even the first time this week that I have had to think about how a writer my son admires hated Jews. My husband was reading Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill to him a few days ago. It contains a poem called The Song of the Fifth River: “There came dark Israel / For whom no river remained” until God provided “The Secret River of Gold!” “Why is Israel dark?” our son asked. My husband replied, numbly, “Because it had no river”.

In the chapter The Treasure and the Law, Kadmiel the Jew describes how the Jews control the world with their wealth, and cause mass death: “All over the world the heathen fought each other
..these meanly dressed ones [the Jews] decide between themselves how, and when, and for how long king should draw sword against king, and people rise up against people. There can be no war without gold, and we Jews know how the earth’s gold moves with the seasons”. Then Kadmiel says he poisoned the well.

I don’t know what to say to my son. I don’t want to write him A Child’s Guide to Anti-Jewish Children’s Fiction or tell him, seriously, there is no positive image of the Jew in European culture until Gottfried Lessing’s 1749 play The Jews, which closed in Berlin because no one could believe in a heroic Jew. I already tear pages detailing the Holocaust from children’s encyclopaedias and children’s history books, trying to keep a secret the world seems anxious to tell him. His bookshelf should be a place of ecstasy and security, without traps set by dead misanthropes. But Dahl didn’t really like children. Perhaps I will tell him that: and that his stories are good because he didn’t like children. He likes sucking them up tubes and turning them into mice and all this is plausible when he writes it.

Perhaps I will also show him this letter from JRR Tolkien, a far superior writer, and man, to Dahl. It is a response to a 1938 letter from RĂŒtten & Loening, a German publishing house keen to publish The Hobbit — if Tolkien could confirm his Arian descent.

“If I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin,” Tolkien wrote, “I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject — which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride”.

That’s subtler, and kinder, than anything Dahl could write; although Tolkien too revised The Lord of the Rings after pondering whether his portrayal of dwarves was anti-Jewish. It is without end, like fiction itself.

So perhaps I will tell him the truth: that you can write wonderfully about fruit, and childhood agony, and still be not the World’s No. 1 Storyteller — as the website says — but an absolute fool.


Tanya Gold is a freelance journalist.

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Jonathan Oldbuck
Jonathan Oldbuck
3 years ago

Why on earth should anyone be expected to apologise for the ideas, the thoughts or the writings of somebody else, especially someone who is dead and gone? What weight is this ‘apology’ expected to carry? It is meaningless nonsense. If RD was an anti-semite then fine, show it; but don’t imagine you can change it.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

Of course his family cannot change the fact he was anti-semitic but they apologies in the same way that if a rampaging two-year old inadvertantly kicks or knowcks an old lady, the supervising parent apologises.

tim97
tim97
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

You’ve upset your own argument Judy… one can apologise for the acts of their children because they’ve been responsible for their upbringing.
None of us, however, have raised our own parents so their actions aren’t really within our control.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Wouldn’t the child be 1) alive and 2) the responsibility of said supervising parents in your example? Neither appears to apply in Dahl’s case.

Apologizing for one’s ancestors is an entirely empty gesture unless one is responsible for the behavior of the ancestors.

R P
R P
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Making an apology on behalf of someone else, particulaly a deceased is just silly but in the modern world it seems to be the trend to do so.

Just to be clear and make you happy I will apologise now for my Great Great Great Grandfather just in case he said or did something you or modern society disappoves of! There fixed it – i never met him but I have apologised!

kenetgiles
kenetgiles
3 years ago
Reply to  R P

Brilliant!

bsema
bsema
3 years ago
Reply to  R P

You haven’t fixed it at all, you’re still guilty of his behaviour and the only way you can even begin to atone for it is to do exactly as I say from now on.

Jeremy Stone
Jeremy Stone
3 years ago

They are not apologising for the late Roald Dahl. This would, indeed, be redundant, if not absurd. They are trying to safeguard a legacy that brings them in tons of money, year after year. While they may indeed regret the ghastliness of his views, it is not an apology so much as a precaution against revisionist history and the damage it may do them in the present day.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

All that glitters is not gold.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

YES. So true.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

If it’s to safeguard a legacy for money, then a family apology would stir people who find Dahl’s comments abhorrent to reverse themselves and buy his books for their kids. That seems more than a bit unlikely. They won’t make a penny more because they apologize.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

So, looks like Roald Dahl is the bad guy this week. He’s dead, so it’s all rather uncontroversial. But we’ll have a go at him anyway. Can’t have these dead authors getting away with being racist.

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

How can someone apologise for someone else’s actions ?

Paul Bradbury
Paul Bradbury
3 years ago

A certain T Blair turned it into an art form and he’s sadly been followed by others since. Personally I suspect that people who apologise on behalf of others don’t do much apologising for their own sins.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Bradbury

Personally I spend much of my life apologising to foreigners for Tony Blair’s actions. It is most tiresome.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago

It is utterly absurd to expect anyone to apologise on behalf of others who are long dead. Crass. I do not apologise for anything unless I am responsible.
If my child misbehaves, it is arguably “on my watch”, so I would perhaps apologise.

As far as I am aware, the behaviour of neither my parents nor my grandparents would have warranted apology. But if it did, too late. Don’t expect me to apologise for them – I am not responsible. To do so would be mere virtue signalling.

The Dahl family apology has something of an air of public relations about it, to preserve the legacy (and their book revenues) and to help avoid any tarnish on the movie. It is even more cynical for that.

Anna Borsey
Anna Borsey
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

Indeed. Guilt shall be personal. How could it ever be otherwise?
We are responsible only for our own actions – and possibly for those of very young children of ours – but certainly NOT for those of our ancestors or any other family members.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

As so often, we have to try and separate the man from the art. Caravaggio was a murderer but produced wonderful paintings. Eric Gill practiced unspeakable perversions yet was an artist, sculptor and engraver of the highest order. Wagner was an anti-semite, yet some people seem to rate his music. As far as I can see, Dahl’s anti-semitism does not permeate his art. I hope my grandchildren will be able to enjoy his books as much as my children did.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Agreed. That’s the point I was getting at in my comment – unsavoury people have produced great art. They’re often flawed characters. All humans are.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Beethoven and Mozart first obviously, but after them did Wagner come in ahead of Bach? I paraphrase the question posed by a musician on learning of his project and reported by Charles Murray in Human Accomplishment (2003).

The people who can rate his music are the ones free to listen to his music, for good or ill.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

1. Bach
2. Mozart
3. Beethoven

Wagner – some way further down, certainly below Schubert

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Murray wasn’t conducting a poll of whose music was the most appealing. He was trying to get at something a bit more dispassionate, which he called achievement. I won’t be able to do it justice here, but I do commend the book.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago

Maybe it’s just me, but when I read a book I have no interest at all in the author except to look for their next one if I enjoyed it. Public figures have massively unreasonable expectations on their personal lives. If we were to boycott everyone with objectionable views, we’d never do anything. I spend massively more money with my local supermarket than with any author, but I don’t investigate the manager’s politics to see if they are deserving of my patronage.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Mitchell

That’s true, but once you know, you can’t un-know. It’s not always easy to come to terms with that knowledge. In an ideal world, I’d like to separate the views of artists from their art, but I can’t quite do it yet.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Come to terms? How would you “come to terms” with anything a long dead author said?

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Mitchell

Me too. But then I have better things to do with my time than investigate every comment ever uttered by every author whose books I have read or want to read. Of course if people want to do investigations prior to selecting works by any author they are certainly free to do so. It’s a choice one can make. On the family apology matter, it doesn’t much matter. People who won’t read an author based on comments he or she made won’t change their minds and read their works simply because some family member who isn’t guilty of anything makes a meaningless apology.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

It’s interesting that there’s never been any move to “cancel” Dahl over this.Only a certain element on the Left cancels people, however, and it does so to those who voice opinions, sentiment or science with which it disagrees.That this element of the Left has not cancelled Dahl strongly suggests that it does not disagree with his sentiments and is itself anti-Semitic.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Or at least sympathetic. He did make comments about black people though, who are more sacred, so perhaps a cancellation is in the offing?If a black person makes a homophobic comment, the black person is higher up the hierarchy of victimhood, so they take precedent.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

“Dahl loved money ““ perhaps he was again projecting in his hatred…?”

This comment seems inappropriate in an article condemning someone else’s anti-semitism.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago

Hmmm, yes, a bit odd indeed.

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago

Did he ‘hate’ Jews? The comment quoted seemed a fairly mild observation, even if one disagrees with it.

Hardly a reason to burn all his books.

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago
Reply to  nick harman

There are no reasons to burn books.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  nick harman

I agree with Joe below saying there are no reasons to burn books. The reason I chose not to buy RD’s books in the mid 80s was that, because of his anti-semitism I did not wish to put money in his pocket.

Tanya Gold
Tanya Gold
3 years ago
Reply to  nick harman

That Hitler had a point is a mild observation?

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  nick harman

I’m inclined to agree. People can express anti-Semitic opinions without being completely anti-Jew. In the course of his life, Dahl must have known Jewish people, and had to deal with them. If one ethnic group does have a monopoly in an industry, then people notice and ask questions, which can often come across as paranoid prejudice. I think Dahl’s remark about the Jews being submissive is incredibly insensitive and ignorant though. People can make observations about Jews. But there’s extra sensitivity around that because of their recent history. I come from a Jewish background, and I might cause offence when talking about other ethnicities. I hope I wouldn’t, but others are welcome to challenge me. I imagine Dahl’s unpleasant views were robustly challenged when he made them. It’s natural to have an in-group preference, but when another ethnic group is above yours (ie. Jewish publishers) then his resentment is understandable. Mind you, it didn’t stop him getting his books published, did it now?
Some of Dahl’s other remarks were private comments one might make to a friend in confidence. We can all say things like that which would sound awful written down for public consumption.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago

I totally agree. Which ethnic group (including my own) does NOT make remarks/generalizations about others? They ALL do. I don’t think “hate” is involved here at all. Plus, people evolve and learn.

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago

Here’s a good idea. Let’s judge everything through today’s lens and make absolutely no attempt to put anything into historical context.

Adam M
Adam M
3 years ago

“He turned to children’s fiction after his career in adult fiction failed.” adult fiction eh? So this is how we ended up with James and The Giant Peach…

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

I am told that some of my ancestors were Jewish, thus tainting me in Dahl’s eyes. I am puzzled as to why anyone should care about a person’s forebears
I don’t investigate my family history, because it cannot possibly have any bearing on who I am. I am me and that is the end of it. Dahl may have disagreed and that is his business

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Lo! The blank slate redivivus.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Better than allowing others to hide their own inadequacies by attributing them to me. Irritating isn’t it?

Gerard Havercroft
Gerard Havercroft
3 years ago

If my father was an abomination it’s not my job to apologise for him. Just try do well by other people in your time on this earth and, at the very least, don’t try to cover things up if you aren’t prepared to tackle an honest conversation about the past.

anakvigo
anakvigo
3 years ago

i wonder if teaching children about the Holocaust is the best way to address the subject as oppose to hiding a very real truth about it for their benefit. We teach them about love and acceptance, maybe we should also teach them about hate?

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
3 years ago
Reply to  anakvigo

So much to consider. Best to let the parents decide that. The child’s age and temperament, the broad brush or the real detail. Whether introduced as long time ago in a place far away or in living memory and just over there. Or whether as a short lived and very bad thing, thankfully now over, or as warning about how even the best educated and cultured people in one of the richest areas of the world can succumb to the most base ideology and inhumanity. What to teach?

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago

There was always something a bit nasty about Dahl’s writing, something gleeful in people’s misfortune. I can’t say I ever liked the guy much. I’m pretty sure the anti-Semitic thing was just part of a greater whole. The world is full of people like that. Get over it.

Tanya Gold
Tanya Gold
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

Joe, he’s seven.

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago
Reply to  Tanya Gold

I assume you’re talking about your son. Just don’t let him read Dahl. That is — for the present, anyway, until the left is totally triumphant — still a parent’s right. Leave others to read him if they wish.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

I think that would cause more damage to her son. Better to let him have his innocence and enjoy the books. There are positive aspects to Dahl’s books, anyway. I think Miss Trunchbull’s downfall is something one can easily feel gleeful about.

Gary Greenbaum
Gary Greenbaum
3 years ago

Possibly, and James’ aunts too I suppose, but what about the other children in the chocolate factory? Yes, each child’s fate related to their flaws but caring adults don’t give children permanent consequences based on their flaws halfway through childhood.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Tanya Gold

Nice to see you here, Tanya (you don’t know me, I’m just an admirer of your work).

Tanya Gold
Tanya Gold
3 years ago

Thank you!

Nelly Booth
Nelly Booth
3 years ago

It’s immoral (and idiotically tribal in today’s world) to visit the sins of the fathers, as the saying goes, on his offspring and descendants. Likewise for mothers’ sins.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Nelly Booth

It’s all about the money.

gravesspicer
gravesspicer
3 years ago

One finds “hate” used too readily by the writer. Dahl observes and comments. Typically more ugliness lies with the accuser.

jmskennedy9
jmskennedy9
3 years ago

Never liked to read these to my kids, because I thought them just too weird. How can you apologize for someone else, get over it. Why does the author censor information about the holocaust instead of using it as a way to teach her children about right and wrong?

Tanya Gold
Tanya Gold
3 years ago
Reply to  jmskennedy9

James, he’s seven and the only Jewish child at his school. He’s much too young to hear it.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
3 years ago
Reply to  Tanya Gold

I’m 67 and I still find it hard to read about, let alone hear. I couldn’t watch the whole of Schindler’s Ark because Fiennes’ performance as Amon Goeth was terrifying. And that was only a film, not the real deal.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

That film profoundly impacted me when I watched it, aged about 20.

neilpickard72
neilpickard72
3 years ago
Reply to  Tanya Gold

I think your maternal instincts are a little over protective. There are enough parenting challenges without seeking them out.

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  jmskennedy9

Kids love weird, not yet being indoctrinated with adult silliness.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Does a manufactured apology change anything? Not really, so what’s the point of demanding one. It’s a bit curious that more pearls will be clutched for the bad acts or thoughts of a person from decades ago than the words and actions of people today.

Andrew Moor
Andrew Moor
3 years ago

I wondered about Rudyard Kipling and Kadmiel/ This is Wikipedia’s summaryt of the book.
The children meet Kadmiel, one of the elders of the Jews in England at the
time of King John (1199-1216). He tells of how when the King was
quarrelling with the Barons of England he discovered that a fellow Jew,
Elias of Bury, was planning to lend him gold, which Elias had discovered
in Pevensey Castle, the very gold that Richard and Hugh had brought
back from their ‘Joyous Venture’. This would have made it possible for
the King to resist the Barons’ demands for limits on his power. Kadmiel
was determined to prevent this. In disguise, he managed to get into the
castle, carry out the treasure, and sink it in the sea out of reach of
the King. John was forced to sign the great charter – ‘Magna Carta’ –
and Kadmiel was able to ensure it applied to all Englishmen, bond or
free. As Puck said, harking back to before the Norman Conquest:

Is this an accurate commentary on Rudyard Kipling’s story? if it is, it would seem that Rudyard Kipling makes Kadmiel an amazing hero of the story and of the UK’s history. Not exactly anti-semitic . Prejudice is a very complex subject. Something most of us suffer from in one form or another and should always be wary of condemning in others.

Jeremy Stone
Jeremy Stone
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Moor

Kipling is intriguingly both anti-semitic and philo-semitic. His language is full of the most tawdry anti-semitic tropes, but he has a tendency to cast his Jews in at least partly heroic mould, as with Kadmiel’s role in saving for all Englishmen the liberties enshrined in Magna Carta. The poem that has the “dark Israel” phrase in it encapsulates this duality. (The intended answer to the child’s question was, I believe, to be that Israel was dark until it was given its golden river, but not afterwards).

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

One possible answer would be that the four rivers were the four ancient river-based empires, Mesopotamia, Egypt etc. The Jews did not get a big shining empire, hence no river, and were not visibly strong (hence dark). They were poorly clad and persecuted (as Kiplings story notes) but they too are shown as an ancient people with their own less visible power and role, in this case trade and commerce, which is their golden river. And indeed they are given their own place in the great sweep of history that formed the story of Kiplings England, alongside the Romans, Vikings, Saxons, Normans, and the church.

Having no skin in the game it is not for me to make suggestions, but if so desired one could make an answer to children on these lines too.

Jack Henry
Jack Henry
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

That was my feeling also reading Puck of Pook’s Hill / Rewards and
Fairies this year. It was my first time with Kipling and I was rather
blown away by the richness of the stories and the appealing characters. Then comes the Treasure and the Law chapter which as
the article relates has these jaw-dropping anti-semitic tropes right
the way through it, yet weirdly retains the sense of warmth and
sympathy from the earlier stories,. It’s decidedly odd.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago

Shakespeare is next I hope. He was fairly anti Semitic in the merchant of Venice. And there Dickens and Fagin. TS Elliot and many others too. Even Churchill succumbed around the time of the Russian revolution.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

But they were all products of their time. We can’t put a black mark next to every great dead white male author.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago

I was being slightly sarcastic.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Hard to tell!

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

And as for Boris Johnson’s book which never seems to get a mention..

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago

As usual the picture in real life is more complex…

Towards the end of “Going Solo” Dahl tells the story of meeting a Jewish refugee during the campaign in Syria. He doesn’t express any prejudice when telling that story, although he is clearly very puzzled.

“Madame Rosette” is from a “Over to you”, a book of short stories based on his flying experiences in Greece and Syria. There are recurring characters and these appear to be lightly fictionalized retellings of actual experiences. It seems to me that it is quite likely the actual brothel-keeper on whom the story was based happened to be Jewish.

Now that doesn’t excuse his other clearly anti-semitic remarks!

ccauwood
ccauwood
3 years ago

If I don’t like someone I don’t check their religion, history or family first as would seem to be necessary now.

Ben
Ben
3 years ago

Burn Roald Dahl books Tanya? What are you going to do about Corbyn?

Tanya Gold
Tanya Gold
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben

I’m not for burning books.

Lee Jones
Lee Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Tanya Gold

But it comes across, somewhat, that you are. I speak as someone who loves your writing, and will continue to do so whatever your reply.

Bison Canning
Bison Canning
3 years ago

Ok, so let’s counter prejudice with more hatred and negativity – that’s always the way forward. Great artists are often full of flaws, especially when viewed through today’s oh-so-clear-eyed version of morality. Why feel the need to diminish all aspects of the man and his work in an effort to highlight his anti-semitism?
Some really perverse points here as well – would Charlie and the Chocolate Factory really have been so compelling if Charlie was the son of an Epsom solicitor? The sneering tone of this article is unpleasant and the effort to discern other prejudices are laughable; so Dahl’s female characters are grotesque – well he makes many of the adults unpleasant – just look at Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Should we burn his books?

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Bison Canning

Absolutely spot-on. So-called ‘anti-semitism’ has been around the globe for over 2000 years. Have the Jews (the intelligent kind) ever bothered to find out why this might be, instead of blaming all and sundry for some evil inbred infection?

johntshea2
johntshea2
3 years ago
Reply to  rlastrategy2

Your suggestion is loathesome. No Jew has any responsibility to account for anti-Semitism.

Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
3 years ago

People make similar comments about black people all the time and especially about Muslims, something that is very common in articles and especially the comments section of “Unheard”, yet no one seems to bat an eyelid.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Frank Freeman

Frank, can you point to some comments here where people are casually racist?

johntshea2
johntshea2
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

See “Black Mamba” below.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  johntshea2

You’re right on that one… and it got my downvote too.
But 1 out of 63 comments BTL doesn’t quite rate as “very common”.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Frank Freeman

Outside of these pages, many an eyelid would be batted over such things. Mind you, I don’t recall any public figures asking why black people were too weak to oppose slavery, which would be truly crass and insensitive.

lmlgriffiths
lmlgriffiths
3 years ago
Reply to  Frank Freeman

“People make similar comments … especially about Muslims, …, yet no one seems to bat an eyelid.”

That is quite a different issue to anti-Semitism, so it’s very misleading to make a parallel. When people criticise lsIam and its adherents, they’re criticising an ideology. When people are making anti-Semitic comments, they’re nearly always targeting Jews as an ethnic group, rather than the ideology of Judaism.

People choose what ideologies they adhere to and promote, they do not choose their ethnic and cultural origins.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

That’s the first time I ever heard Michael Coren mentioned as “Mike Coren”, the self-righteous holier-than-thou Catholic conservative who is now a self-righteous, woker-than-thou Anglican liberal. Is Tanya a friend of Mike’s then? What reply did her good friend Mike make to Dahl’s Anti-Semitic remark, if she is aware of it? This isn’t a rhetorical question; I would really like to know.

Tanya Gold
Tanya Gold
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

It was an interview I don’t think he is expected to reply. I have never met or spoken to him.

neilpickard72
neilpickard72
3 years ago

Overbearing and sure of the need to impose and apparently proud of being so. Maybe the father engender some freedom for his child.

If the author – rightly – rails against anti-Semitism maybe she should focus on the living where it matters.

johntshea2
johntshea2
3 years ago

I upvoted Mark H.’s question above about casual racism on Unherd, before coming to Black Mamba’s loathesome Anti-Semitism. So I thank Tanya Gold for this timely article.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago

“He’s a snob too”
“Dahl loved money”
I think both these observations probably explain Dahl’s sympathy for conservatism. He appeared at a 1987 election rally for the Conservative Party and sent Thatcher a bunch of flowers. True, the opposition at the time weren’t particularly appealing, but Thatcher’s Tories were especially smug, and embodied a sort of gauche snobbery, especially among the monied classes.
I enjoyed Dahl’s books as a child, and the film adaptations of them. Now I’m an adult, I have little cause to revisit them, although I did like his Tales of the Unexpected. The talented among us are not without their flaws though. Nice piece, Tanya. It’s Dahl who should have apologised of course, and his family can’t, really. Not the man they knew? Really?

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Sent Mrs Thatcher flowers?????. Seems, to use your words, a bit of gauche snobbery to object to such a nothing action, does it not? But it’s good to know that liberals don’t love money. Because they hide that fact rather well.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago

Not objecting, merely pointing out that she embodied those qualities which Tanya highlights. I think we all love having money, but loving money itself is the problem.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Not to everyone she didn’t.

As I said, good to know liberals don’t love money. Because they hide that fact rather well.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

Deleted

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

Excuse me. He’s dead.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
1 year ago

Why does everything have to be seen in such binary terms? Dahl, like all of us, had strengths and weaknesses and his character, like all of us, was a variegated patchwork of good, evil and everything in between.

This is the human condition; and to condemn a whole person because of an objectionable part of them is to send us all to the flames.

The same applies to ethnic groups. These too contain people that do and think good and bad things, and different cultures foster different good and bad characteristics.

To grant a particular group immunity from criticism is not helpful to that group or the human condition. Better to pick out the light and darkness of a culture than to make one beyond criticism.

Granting a whole ethnic group immunity from all criticism, so that any perjorative comments relating to individuals or traits associated with that group are seen as blasphemy isn’t wise, even though it may be in response to past horrors.

Last edited 1 year ago by Roddy Campbell
neilpickard72
neilpickard72
3 years ago

I hope the author is a better journalist than a parent. Overbearing and sure of the need to impose and apparently proud of being so. Maybe the father engender some freedom for his child.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago

No Jews were terrified by Roald Dahl, but I pray that modern silly commentators like Tanya do not help create Anti-Jewish sentiment with ridiculous self-pitying articles. PErceiving oneself as a victim is a Jewish stereotype. Dahl wasn’t a particularly nice person… so what? He will be better known than Tanya in 50 years time, guranteed. Sour grapes love. And given your penchant for insulting the insitutions that have helped you so much, including Merton and Oxford University, maybe you should take some of his advice on being polite/grateful (what you call being ‘submissive’). It’s almost as if you have no out-group loyalty, which couldn’t be the case as that would be yet another stereotype.Next we’ll hearing about how awful Shakespeare is, but Mrs Gold[stein], she’s the real talent.

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

Poor Tanya’s a classical victim of the pathetic ‘Woke drivelerati. …

Karen Lindquist
Karen Lindquist
3 years ago

Great, so we’ve all learned a lesson about wrong think, and that even in death you will be taken to task for expressing a thought that offends the people who want total control of all expression.Score one for the faux liberals who are happy to correct certain people while never owning their own glaring offenses.I won’t hold my breath for liberal policies and actions such as the Green Party trying to normalize pedophilia back in the 70s and 80s. The stuff they did that actually hurt people, and weren’t just someone’s casual words.Speaking of which, did the Jes ever apologies for all the children they stole to plump up their numbers in the West Bank? I’m thinking the answer to that is no…Hypocrites.

Tanya Gold
Tanya Gold
3 years ago

I’ve asked for this comment to be removed.