Roald Dahl is one of the writers that fascinate me the most. He was a natural storyteller, with the ability to bring tales to life by caricaturizing every day scenes. In his hands, the simplest anecdote would turn out to be the most captivating adventure. As a kid, I was in love with his novels: Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach… I especially remember reading The Witches and being both amused and terrified by the bald and toeless creatures who seek and curse children.
Some time ago I came across a new collection of books published by Penguin which consolidates his short stories for grown ups. I had already read some of his previous publications – such as Someone Like You or Kiss Kiss –, however, this new edition caught my eye with its simple and sharp design that seemed to match with the darker side of the writer.
The collection is composed of eight books arranged by theme: Cruelty, Madness, Deception, Lust, Innocence, Trickery, War and Fear. The white covers feature artworks by artist Charming Baker, which contrast with the roughness of the paper not only through the finished touch, but also through the provoking images. They embody the perfect combination of innocence and depravity that represents best these dark and twisted stories.
Left: Roald Dahl, Madness. Penguin Books, 2016. Right: Charming Baker. One or Two Cats, 2016.
Dahl’s adult tales are more than just a mere reflection of a macabre facet. They are an evolution of his stories for kids. He moves away from characters defined only by good or evil to explore human nature through its flaws, passions and desires. By digging into the uncommon possibilities that could be found inside the commonest of situations, he never fails to create disturbing stories, which leave the reader breathless, intrigued and captivated.
Every time, after finishing one of his tales, a smile comes onto my lips. Every time, he tricks me. Every time, I remain astonished by his masterful way of flourishing irony and suspense simultaneously. Every time, I keep going back through the story to understand how he has managed to captivate me that much. And every time, I end up feeling as if no time had actually passed and I’m still a kid reading wonderful stories at bedtime.
“I’m wondering what to read next.” Matilda said. “I’ve finished all the children’s books…”
Don’t worry, keep reading Roald Dahl’s stories. But grown up readers beware: they are addictive.
Header photo: Charming Baker. Gloria, 2015.