Roald Dahl was born September 13, 1916, in Llandaff, South Wales. At the age of eight, he was sent to a boarding school in southwest England...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff, near Cardiff, in South Wales, in 1916, to Norwegian-born parents. He was the only boy in his father’s second family. Dahl’s father and uncle had left Norway to seek their fortunes, and Dahl’s father found it in equipping ships sailing out of the busy Cardiff docks. By the time Dahl was born, his father, who died when Dahl was four, had become wealthy. Dahl attended an Anglican public school in Llandaff before going to a prepatory school in Weston-Super-Mare, across the Severn Estuary from Cardiff, and then to the Repton School in Yorkshire. Dahl hated the public school atmosphere and the separation from his family; he was prevented from becoming a prefect at the Repton School because of his lack of seriousness about school discipline.
After he was graduated from the Repton School in 1932, Dahl went on a school-sponsored exploration of the interior of Newfoundland before joining the Shell Oil Company. He spent several years working in London before being sent to Dar-es-Salaam as a Shell Oil representative. In 1938, he joined the Royal Air Force, and, despite his unusual height, he was trained as a pilot. Though he was wounded once, he served as a fighter pilot in Africa, Greece, and Syria. He also served in intelligence units and was made a wing commander. His stories collected in Over to You: Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying are based on these experiences.
In 1953, Dahl married actress Patricia Neal, and they had five children, one of whom died of the measles at age seven. Dahl began writing stories for children after making up bedtime tales for his own children. In the late 1960’s, Neal suffered an incapacitating illness, and Dahl helped her through a slow recovery. In 1983, they divorced, and Dahl remarried. He died in November, 1990.
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916, to a Norwegian family living in Wales. When he was three, his older sister Astri suddenly became ill and died, and his father subsequently lost his will to live, dying from pneumonia shortly afterward. The elder Dahl’s last wish was to put the surviving children in English schools, which he perceived as being superior. As a result, Dahl’s mother could not return to Norway, where she could receive assistance from family.
However academically rigorous English schools might be, the young Dahl found their discipline policies monstrous and oppressive. Decades afterward he would vividly recall his terror at the continual threat of being beaten with a bamboo or wooden cane. This weapon could create vicious welts on its victim’s back and buttocks and leave painful bruises for weeks. Although some of the canings Dahl and his friends received may have been deserved, many of them were the result of the capricious exercise of authority by ill-tempered teachers and older students. The experience left him with a lifelong sympathy for the small and weak and an active detestation of bullies.
However, Dahl’s schooldays were not a period of unremitting horror. While at one school, he was part of a program by which the Cadbury Chocolate Company tested new formulations. At regular periods each student would receive a box containing twenty small bars of chocolate to evaluate. Dahl came to look forward to each distribution, and often imagined the laboratory in which they were created.
When Dahl finished school, he decided not to pursue a university degree because he wanted to see the world. He obtained a job with Shell Oil, which sent him to Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in Africa. While he was there, World War II broke out and he volunteered for the Royal Air Force (RAF). After learning how to fly, he was sent north to another airbase. However, the directions he was given were faulty, and he ran out of fuel before reaching the runway. Injured in the crash landing, he barely escaped his plane before it caught fire.
While he was recuperating from his injuries and it became increasingly clear that he would never again be fit enough to fly, the RAF sent him to Washington, D.C., to serve as an attaché in its embassy. There he was interviewed about...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Roald Dahl’s greatest strength lies in his mastery of the grotesque, by which he can evoke both humor and horror. Again and again in his works villains meet comeuppances at once bizarre and redolent of poetic justice. Bullies and abusers of authority come in for particular attention in Dahl’s fun-house-mirror worlds, regularly meeting absurd ends that perfectly match their vices. Yet at the same time Dahl never crosses the line to the gruesome or disgusting. The ends to which his villains come, particularly in his writing for children, are just absurd enough to be clearly divorced from reality, and thus the reader feels free to laugh.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Roald Dahl was remarkable for having achieved wide acclaim in two distinct genres: macabre tales for adults and children’s literature. The son of Norwegian immigrants who found prosperity in Wales, his childhood was darkened by his father’s early death and his unhappy experiences at various English boarding schools. Rather than attend college, he went to work for Shell Oil. An assignment in Africa delighted him and provided materials for such stories as “Poison.”
During World War II Dahl enlisted in the Royal Air Force (RAF), where he was a successful fighter pilot but suffered injuries that would plague him all his life. He was reassigned to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., to work as a spy. Here he met C. S. Forester, who wanted to do an article about Dahl’s experiences in the RAF. Dahl decided to write the article himself, however, and with Forester’s encouragement he sold several stories about pilots that he later collected in Over to You. A few of these stories, among them “An African Story,” veer into the fantastic and allow a glimpse of the macabre sensibilities for which Dahl later became known. He also wrote a children’s story, The Gremlins, about mischievous critters sabotaging fighter planes, which Walt Disney purchased, though the film was never made.
After the war Dahl decided to try writing for a living. When his novel Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen received mixed reviews, he returned to writing short stories. In the eighteen stories of...
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Although Dahl was one of the world’s most successful children’s authors, parental critics have charged that his books revelled in vulgarity and cruelty. Criticism of his books has come from both the Right and the Left, as well as from other ideological factions. Feminists, for example, have denounced The Witches (1983) for its unflattering portrayals of women, while Christian Fundamentalists have attacked the book out of fear that it will entice impressionable children into the occult. Dahl’s private opinions—especially anti-Semitism expressed in letters to friends—have also fueled arguments against exposing children to his books. Critics have also objected to unflattering racial depictions in Charlie and the...
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