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Roald Dahl family sorry for author’s anti-Semitic remarks

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Roald Dahl’s family has apologised for anti-Semitic comments made by the best-selling author, who died in 1990.

A statement condemning Dahl’s controversial comments, made in two interviews in 1983 and 1990, was published on his official website. 

In a discreet part of the website, his family and the Roald Dahl Story Company “deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused”.

It said his “prejudiced remarks stand.. in marked contrast to the man we knew”.

The statement, which is undated, was spotted by the Sunday Times. 

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Apology for anti-Semitic comments: Full statement

“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.”

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A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said it was “disappointing” Roald Dahl’s family “waited 30 years to make an apology”.

“It is a shame that the estate has seen fit mere to apologise for Dahl’s anti-Semitism rather than to use its substantial means to do anything about it,” the spokesperson said.

“The apology should have come much sooner and been published less obscurely, but the fact that it has come at all – after so long – is an encouraging sign that Dahl’s racism has been acknowledged even by those who profit from his creative works.”

Roald Dahl, who was born in Wales to Norwegian immigrant parents, remains one of the most popular children’s authors in the world – with novels including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and The BFG all adapted for the big screen.

In an interview with the New Statesman in 1983, he said he believed that there was a “a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity”. 

Seven years later, in a piece in the Independent, the author acknowledged he had “become anti-Semitic”.

The remarks, for which the writer refused to apologise, have continued to cause upset among the Jewish community.

In 2018, the Royal Mint chose not to issue a commemorative coin on the 100th anniversary of his birth because of his anti-Semitic views.

At the time, Wes Streeting, Labour MP, applauded the decision by the Royal Mint, citing the author’s “classic, undeniable, blatant anti-Semitism”.

With the enduring popularity of his novels, Roald Dahl’s estate continues to be highly lucrative, posting annual pre-tax profits of £12.7m in 2018 – largely thanks to film and television deals.

In October this year, a new film version of The Witches was released starring Anne Hathaway, and in March Netflix announced a forthcoming adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The Roald Dahl Story Company later added: “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 anti-Semitic comments. This is why we chose to apologise on our website.”