Roald Dahl's family issues apology for author's antisemitism

Roald Dahl's family issues apology for author's antisemitism

Roald Dahl's family has apologised for antisemitic comments made by the late bestselling children's writer, acknowledging such "prejudiced remarks" caused "lasting and understandable hurt".

Dahl, whose popular works include The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG, described himself as having "become antisemitic" in the Independent only a few months before his death aged 74 in 1990. 

Seven years before this, he'd told 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. 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."

A statement posted on the official Roald Dahl website, 30 years after his death, reads: "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.

"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."

The statement from the estate of Roald Dahl has been remarked on for its "quiet" release, with the Sunday Times–the first to report on it–noting there's no way to access the apology from the website's main menu; neither was it sent to the media or Jewish groups.

A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said the apology "should have come much sooner and been published less obscurely", although they welcomed "the fact that it has come at all", calling it "an encouraging sign that Dahl's racism has been acknowledged even by those who profit from his creative works".

An additional statement was made by The Roald Dahl Story Company to the Sunday Times, saying: "Apologising 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. We loved Roald, but we passionately disagree with his antisemitic comments.

"This is why we chose to apologise on our website, an apology easily found on Google. The Sunday Times now provides an opportunity to repeat this apology. 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."