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Family Apologizes for Dead Author’s Controversial Statements

December 10, 2020

Famous author Roald Dahl is known for books like The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But even though Dahl died decades ago, his family has recently apologized for some comments Dahl made in several interviews over the years.

Unfortunately, the apology was not accepted gracefully.

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The family of children’s book author Roald Dahl has issued a belated apology for his history of anti-Semitism.

“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,” read the comment on the official Dahl website.

The apology comes three decades after the British author’s death in 1990. Over his nearly 50-year career, Dahl wrote such classic children’s books as MatildaJames and the Giant Peach, and The BFG.

He also made some anti-Semitic comments.

In one example, in 1983 Dahl reportedly told Britain’s New Statesman magazine that “there is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity. … Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

Read more at Roald Dahl’s Family Apologizes For His Anti-Semitic Comments.

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What? THAT’s the quote that Dahl’s family is apologizing for? I was a kid growing up in 1973, and I heard stuff that was way worse than that back then. Back in 1973, there were people whose biggest complaint about Hitler was that he started a two-front war. At least Dahl called Hitler a stinker.

I don’t believe in apologizing for somebody else’s behavior or words, even if I’m associated with that person. I might acknowledge the bad behavior and say that I don’t agree with it or condone it, but I won’t apologize for it.

I’m not a fan of people who apologize for the behavior of others, but even worse are people who can’t accept apologies.

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The group (Campaign Against Antisemitism) added that the apology was “encouraging,” but that it’s “a shame that the estate has seen fit mere to apologise for Dahl’s antisemitism rather than to use its substantial means to do anything about it.”

“This apology should have happened long ago — and it is of concern that it has happened so quietly now,” said Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Dahl’s “abhorrent antisemitic prejudices were no secret and have tarnished his legacy.”

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When it comes to apologies, my philosophy is that you either accept the apology or don’t. When somebody offers me a sincere apology, I accept it. I don’t complain about how long it took and then tell the offender to give me money.

If the apology isn’t sincere, I might ask a bunch of questions like “What exactly are you apologizing for?” I don’t accuse the apologizer of being insincere. I just ask specific questions and see how defensive the apologizer gets.

But enough about me! What do you think? Do you apologize for the behavior of other people? Do Dahl’s comments “tarnish his legacy,” or is that just how some people felt back then? What famous authors have said or done stuff that tarnish their legacies?

6 Comments
  1. I would say that the estate of a writer, as an entity that should have no opinion or agenda of its own other that representation of deceased writer, should probably make an apology if one would be expected from the writer if he were still alive. (As opposed to, say, the writer’s children or other relatives who really shouldn’t have to apologize for something they were not in any way directly responsible for).
    On the other hand, a response to an apology like “we won’t accept that apology unless it comes with a sizable sum of money” sounds a lot like extortion.

  2. The sin is not the comment, but the view. I would not berate anyone, alive or dead for saying what they think, but I might argue with them.
    We need more argument and less condemnation. If we teach kids to argue and to appraise evidence and statements then we might move forward, but I doubt that will happen.

  3. I will point to the person who needs to apologize, if that person is dead then you are SOL.

  4. This is the stupidest thing I ever saw. When I saw the article pop up as I was scrolling through the news app on my phone, I rolled my eyes. I really don’t see why the family of a dead man who made some comments which may or may not have been antisemitic should apologise. Who did these comments actually hurt? I’m sorry, that’s just plain ridiculous. My mother, a ‘Paki’ in 60’s London, got far worse than that. Punches and kicks and horrible other things, and not once did she demand an apology from anybody. I don’t think Dahl’s comments tarnish his legacy at all. I think he was born and brought up in a time in which those attitudes were common and normal, and nobody thought they were far fetched at all. They do now, but certainly not then, and we should not berate the descendants of people for the thoughts their ancestors dared to have in a completely different time! I don’t even believe the estate of the writer, as a commenter above wrote, should apologise either. That’s simply absurd. I hate this modern day notion of forcing people to apologise and then scrutinising their apologies with magnifying glasses the size of a planet. Well of-bloody-course it’s not going to be sincere is it, if they’re forced to do it. I am sure all the Islamophobic comments made by our prime minister and everybody else are normal now, and a part of ‘free speech’ (which, by the way, does not apply to Dahl’s comments about jews? Odd, that.) but will they be so in 40 years? And if so, should the estate of Boris Johnson apologise for calling muslim women letterboxes? It’s the same sentiment. People ought to stop crying wolf over inconsequential matters and focus on real issues of antisemitism happening today, not random comments made by an eccentric old writer decades ago.

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