Roald Dahl’s family apologises for author’s antisemitic comments

'Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew’

Tom Batchelor@_tombatchelor
Sunday 06 December 2020 18:50
<p>Roald Dahl in 1988, two years before his death</p>

Roald Dahl in 1988, two years before his death

The family of Roald Dahl – author of children’s books such as Matilda, The BFG, The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – has apologised for his antisemitic comments.

A statement from Dahl’s family and the company managing the rights to his characters and stories, posted on his official website, said they “deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements”.

Dahl, who died at the age of 74 in 1990, infamously said during an interview with the New Statesman seven years earlier: “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,” he continued. “Even a stinker like Hitler didn't just pick on them for no reason.”

Speaking to The Independent just months before his death, Dahl also said: “I'm certainly anti-Israel and I've become antisemitic inasmuch as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism.”

“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,” the family said.

“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.”

The apology, which was quietly posted on the website of The Roald Dahl Story Company, was first reported by The Sunday Times.

In 2018, plans to commemorate Dahl with a special edition coin were scrapped over concerns about the author's views towards Jewish people.

Despite his comments, which have cast a shadow over his personal legacy, Dahl has regularly topped lists of the nation's favourite authors and his stories continued to be read by children around the world.

A new version of The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway, was released earlier this year, while Hollywood stars including Johnny Depp, Mark Rylance, and Danny DeVito have all appeared in big-screen versions of his stories.

Dahl’s first wife, the actress Patricia Neal, labelled him “Roald the Rotten” because of how he was alleged to have treated her.

In her autobiography As I Am, written four years after her divorce from Dahl in 1987, she accused Dahl of being a rude, arrogant and disloyal husband who regularly belittled her during their marriage.

In a 2012 interview, his second daughter, Tessa Dahl, said that “daddy gave joy to millions of children. But I was dying inside”.