My Uncle Oswald Read online
My Uncle Oswald
My Uncle Oswald
Roald Dahl's parents were Norwegian, but he was born in Llandaff, Glamorgan, in 1916 and educated at Repton School. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he enlisted in the RAF at Nairobi. He was severely wounded after joining a fighter squadron in Libya, but later saw service as a fighter pilot in Greece and Syria. In 1942 he went to Washington as Assistant Air Attache, which was where he started to write, and then was transferred to Intelligence, ending the war as a wing commander. His first twelve short stories, based on his wartime experiences, were originally published in leading American magazines and afterwards as a book, Over to You. All of his highly acclaimed stories have been widely translated and have become bestsellers all over the world. Anglia Television dramatized a selection of his short stories under the title Tales of the Unexpected. Among his other publications are two volumes of autobiography, Boy and Going Solo, his much-praised novel, My Uncle Oswald, and Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories, of which he was editor. During the last year of his life he compiled a book of anecdotes and recipes with his wife, Felicity, which was published by Penguin in 1996 as Roald Dahl's Cookbook. He is one of the most successful and well known of all children's writers, and his books are read by children all over the world. These include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Magic Finger, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits, The Witches, winner of the 1983 Whitbread Award, The BFG and Matilda.
Roald Dahl died in November 1990. The Times described him as 'one of the most widely read and influential writers of our generation' and wrote in its obituary: 'Children loved his stories and made him their favourite... They will be classics of the future.' In 2000 Roald Dahl was voted the nation's favourite author in the World Book Day poll.
For more information on Roald Dahl go to www.roalddahl.com
I do love a romp
Oswald's Diaries, Vol. XIV
I am beginning, once again, to have an urge to salute my Uncle Oswald. I mean, of course, Oswald Hendryks Cornelius deceased, the connoisseur, the bon vivant, the collector of spiders, scorpions and walking-sticks, the lover of opera, the expert on Chinese porcelain, the seducer of women, and without much doubt the greatest fornicator of all time. Every other celebrated contender for that title is diminished to a point of ridicule when his record is compared with that of my Uncle Oswald. Especially poor old Casanova. He comes out of the contest looking like a man who was suffering from a severe malfunction of his sexual organ.
Fifteen years have passed since I released for publication in 1964 the first small excerpt from Oswald's diaries. I took trouble at the time to select something unlikely to give offence, and that particular episode concerned, if you remember, a harmless and rather frivolous description of coitus between my uncle and a certain female leper in the Sinai Desert.
So far so good. But I waited a full ten years more (1974) before risking the release of a second piece. And once again I was careful to choose something that was, at any rate by Oswald's standards, as nearly as possible suitable for reading by the vicar to Sunday School in the village church. That one dealt with the discovery of a perfume so potent that any man who sniffed it upon a woman was unable to prevent himself from ravishing her on the spot.
No serious litigation resulted from the publication of this little bit of trivia. But there were plenty of repercussions of another kind. I found my mailbox suddenly clogged with letters from hundreds of female readers, all clamouring for a drop of Oswald's magic perfume. Innumerable men also wrote to me with the same request, including a singularly unpleasant African dictator, a British left-wing Cabinet Minister and a Cardinal from the Holy See. A Saudi-Arabian prince offered me an enormous sum in Swiss currency, and a man in a dark suit from the American Central Intelligence Agency called on me one afternoon with a briefcase full of hundred-dollar bills. Oswald's perfume, he told me, could be used to compromise just about every senior Russian statesman and diplomat in the world, and his people wanted to buy the formula.
Unfortunately, I had not one drop of the magic liquid to sell, so there the matter ended.
Today, five years after publication of that perfume story, I have decided to permit the public yet another glimpse into my uncle's life. The section I have chosen comes from Volume XX, written in 1938, when Oswald was forty-three years old and in the prime of life. Many famous names are mentioned in this one, and there is obviously a grave risk that families and friends are going to take offence at some of the things Oswald has to say. I can only pray that those concerned will grant me indulgence and will understand that my motives are pure. For this is a document of considerable scientific and historical importance. It would be a tragedy if it never saw the light of day.
Here then is the extract from Volume XX of the Diaries of Oswald Hendryks Cornelius, word for word as he wrote it:
London, July 1938
Have just returned from a satisfactory visit to the Lagonda works at Staines. W. O. Bentley gave me lunch (salmon from the Usk and a bottle of Montrachet) and we discussed the extras for my new V12. He has promised me a set of horns that will play Mozart's Son gia mille e Tre in perfect pitch. Some of you may think this to be a rather childish conceit, but it will serve as a nice incentive to be reminded, every time I press the button, that good old Don Giovanni had by then deflowered 1003 buxom Spanish damsels. I told Bentley that the seats are to be upholstered in fine-grain alligator, and the panelling to be veneered in yew. Why yew? Simply because I prefer the colour and grain of English yew to that of any other wood.
But what a remarkable fellow this W. O. Bentley is. And what a triumph it was for Lagonda when he went over to them. It is somehow sad that this man, having designed and given his name to one of the finest cars in the world, should be forced out of his own company and into the arms of a rival. It means, however, that the new Lagondas are now peerless, and I for one would have no other machine. But this one isn't going to be cheap. It is costing me more thousands than I ever thought it possible to pay for an automobile.
Yet who cares about money? Not me, because I've always had plenty of it. I made my first hundred thousand pounds when I was seventeen and later I was to make a lot more. Having said that, it occurs to me that I have never once throughout these journals made any mention of the manner in which I became a wealthy man.
Perhaps the time has come when I should do this. I think it has. For although these diaries are designed to be a history of the art of seduction and the pleasures of copulation, they would be incomplete without some reference also to the art of moneymaking and the pleasures attendant thereon.
Very well, then. I have talked myself into it. I shall proceed at once to tell you something about how I set about making money. But just in case some of you may be tempted to skip this particular section and go on to juicier things, let me assure you that there will be juice in plenty dripping from these pages. I wouldn't have it otherwise.
Great wealth, when uninherited, is usually acquire