My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl


I read a book today that I feel I’d like to talk about. That book is “My Uncle Oswald”.

I will start with the easy stuff that jumped out at me, bearing in mind what I saw tonight:

Monsieur Boisvain was a civil servant of sorts and as unremarkable as the rest of his breed

‘That case made medical history,’ I said.
‘I find it repugnant,’ A.R. Woresley said.
‘I’m sorry about that. I’m only trying to make conversation.’

“My Uncle Oswald” is an extract from the extensive journals of the unnamed narrator’s Uncle Oswald. Actually, the narrator is only around for two pages so he’s not actually the narrator but I can’t think of a better way to phrase it. Wikipedia describes it as ‘a satire soft porn novel’, I think it plays around very merrily with rape and the most disturbing part about this book? The author is the one and only Roald Dahl.

Basically, a young man – Oswald – decides to make a fortune. First he buys some mysterious ‘aphrodisiac’ powder from Sudan, shapes it into pills and sells it by the bucketload. A very powerful aphrodisiac, rendering its takers completely and utterly helpless to their desire.

That’s part 1. Part 2 is the idea to use this drug to steal a sperm sample from the luminaries of the day (the 20s) – kings of Europe, Freud, Picasso, Shaw, Einstein, Conan Doyle, Matisse etc. Then he can sell samples to women who want their babies to have celebrity fathers and become a millionnaire. Oswald recruits a beautiful and scientifically-minded girl to do the actual deed – to administer the drug, allow herself to be raped and run off with a sperm sample in ‘a rubbery thing’. This book twists the idea of consent into a Mobius loop – topped off by mostly being played for laughs. The effect is disturbing and weird and although it initially seems impossible that this hideous thing was written by childhood hero Roald Dahl, Dahl writes such weird and twisted things that it could only have been written by him. Everyone who’s read his children’s books knows how creepy he can be – and with his adult books, that’s dialled up to eleven.

Also, only Roald Dahl could get away with the line ‘I grabbed hold of his snozzberry’. Usually he favours the word ‘pizzle’, occasionally ‘member’ so ‘snozzberry’ was a bit of a surprise. And finally, although I won’t spoil the surprise, there’s an anatomically dubious chapter starring the French novelist Proust and a banana.

In short, this one is best kept for the over 18s with a reasonably open mind and a willingness to have their childhood illusions of lovely Roald Dahl shattered.