Roald Dahl’s Family Apologizes For Author’s Antisemitic Comments
The family of Roald Dahl has apologized for the author’s antisemitism, which hurt his reputation during his lifetime and continues to taint interpretations of his work after his death, through a statement on the website that was recently discovered and publicized but has been up for an indefinite amount of time.
“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, the statement reads. “Those prejudiced remarks 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. We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.”
Dahl’s antisemitic sentiments became infamous back in 1983, through statements he made his review of a book about the Lebanon War in the Literary Review.
“[Never has] race of people switched so rapidly from victims to barbarous murderers,” he said of Jewish people. In that same review, he also made statements about “those powerful American Jewish bankers,” who had the United States government “utterly dominated by the great Jewish financial institutions over there.”
Later that year, he made Nazi-sympathetic comments an interview with 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,” he said in the interview. “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.”
In 1990, the year he died, Dahl even proudly owned up to his antisemitism in an interview with The Independent.
““I’m certainly anti-Israeli, and I’ve become antisemitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism,” he said. “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 – that’s why the president of the United States has to sell all this stuff to Israel.”
Even after his death, more antisemitic comments by Dahl appeared in the media as his original 1983 book review was brought back and re-publicized in a 1990 letter to the New York Times. Even the Royal Mint disavowed him back in 2016, when they were considering honoring the 100th anniversary of his birth with a commemorative coin.
“[Dahl is] associated with antisemitism and not regarded as an author of the highest reputation,” they explained.
Unfortunately, Dahl’s bigotry does not end with his antisemitic remarks. His book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for instance, was originally written with multiple racist portrayals of black people. Not only was the main character, Charlie Buckets, originally planned as a black character before Dahl’s agent discouraged it, but the Oompa Loompas were also written as African pygmies in earlier editions of the book.
When contacted for further comment, the Roald Dahl Story Company responded with another apology for Dahl’s apparent bigotry.
“Apologizing for the words of a much-loved grandparent is a challenging thing to do, but made more difficult when the words are so hurtful to an entire community,” the company said. “These comments do not reflect what we see in his work — a desire for the acceptance of everyone equally — and were entirely unacceptable. We are truly sorry.”