‘Boy’ is an autobiography of Roald Dahl’s childhood. A must read for anyone who wants to relive their childhood. While reading the book I did relive mine!
Dahl is the protagonist as he takes us through the early years of his life. His family structure, the death of his father when he was only three years of age. Of Norwegian descent, Dahl’s lived in London and went to Norway during his summer vacations. His description of summer vacations brought back my own vacations in Karachi.
Dahl not only makes use of his memory but also of all the letters which he wrote to his mother from boarding school which help him to provide specific details of his various schools. What is most entertaining, though, is the little insight the book provides on the source of some of his amazing ideas for stories like Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches, to name a few. A lot of villains in his children books seem to be reincarnations of the head masters and teachers he had in boarding school!
Dahl joined the Shell Company at the age of eighteen and worked for sometime in London before he was posted to Africa (much to his delight). Dahl makes a great comparison between routine life, as he experienced in London, and the non- routine life of a writer (which he became later on).
‘I enjoyed it. I really did. I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours and a fixed salary and very little original thinking to do. The life of a writer is absolute hell as compared to a businessman. The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him. If he is a writer of fiction he lives in a world of fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not. Two hours of writing fiction leaves this particular writer absolutely drained. For those two hours he has been miles away, he has been somewhere else, in a different place with totally different people, and the effort of swimming back into normal surroundings is very great. It is almost like a shock. The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it. It happens to be a fact that nearly every writer of fiction in the world drinks more whiskey than is good for him. He does it to give himself faith, hope and courage. A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it’.
September was Roald Dahl month on the beanbag. Read my blog on his other autobiographical book, Going Solo.
Photographs: Google Images