x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Roald Dahl's story factory move provokes controversy

The family of the late children's author has drawn criticism by asking for public help in a move to preserve the hut where Roald Dahl did his writing.

The late Roald Dahl. AP Photo
The late Roald Dahl. AP Photo

He is one of the best-loved authors - adored by children and adults alike - but on what would have been Roald Dahl's 95th birthday last week, the mood was one of controversy rather than celebration, in the UK at least.

Dahl wrote many of his weird and wonderful tales - The Witches, Matilda and George's Marvellous Medicine - in a ramshackle hut in the back garden of his family home in Buckinghamshire, England. Firmly out of bounds to all but the man himself, the shed still houses his favourite armchair, the yellow legal pads on which those famous tales were written and a pile of wrappers from the boiled sweets that he apparently sucked for inspiration.

The Dahl family has suggested that the hut is a piece of literary history, albeit dilapidated. They want to restore the contents and relocate them to the Roald Dahl museum close by. So far, so acceptable. What has caused outrage, though, is that they have appealed to the public to help raise the £500,000 (Dh2.89m) needed to make this possible.

It seems that many people feel that this cause, spearheaded by Dahl's granddaughter Sophie (ex-model, author, celebrity chef and wife of the jazz singer Jamie Cullum) could well be funded by the family itself, given the significant wealth that they have no doubt accrued thanks to Dahl's enduring popularity. People have also questioned the proposed cost of this endeavour, which, considering it is a hut, not a house, does seem rather steep and poses the question: what would the man himself have thought?