Remembering Roald Dahl, 'Benevolent Sadist'

Beloved author was both 'nasty' and 'charming'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2010 9:53 AM CDT
British children's author, short-story writer, playwright and versifier Roald Dahl (1916 - 1995), born in Wales of Norwegian parentage.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – As the 20th anniversary of Roald Dahl's death approaches, Sam Anderson takes a look at the complicated, yet beloved, children's author. Dahl's fiction is "simultaneously thrilling and absurd and puzzling and oddly disturbing"—much like the author himself, Anderson writes in New York, noting that as one reads a recent biography of the author, "it’s sometimes hard to know whether to root for Dahl or for whatever angry hell-demon seemed so determined to bring him down."

Dahl's life was a series of "grisly and fabulous yarns," marked by tragedies from the death of his sister when he was just 3, to the death of his own daughter. Dahl was courageous in the face of these tragedies—he nursed wife Patricia Neal back to health after a stroke—but could also be "world-historically unpleasant." But "in his stories, Dahl’s mean streak got translated into a kind of edgy warmth." His children's books braid "the nasty and the charming into something unique in the history of storytelling." For more on Dahl, click here.

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