jenny diski

This was the headline the London Review of Books team gave to the late and much missed writer Jenny Diski’s 1994 piece on Roald Dahl, where she reviewed Jeremy Treglown’s biography of the author.

The ‘Stinker’ of the title referred to Dahl’s dreadful anti-semitic comment : ‘Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason’.

Diski, as ever, is very good on the foibles: ‘There is something in us that wants good writers to be good people. There’s also something in us that knows pigs can’t fly.’

Diski saves her best quote for the end, where she quotes from Treglown on the ultimatum that Dahl’s American publisher Robert Gottlieb of Knopf sent the English author:

‘In brief, and as unemotionally as I can state it … you have behaved to us in a way I can honestly say is unmatched in my experience for overbearingness and utter lack of civility … unless you start acting civilly to us, there is no possibility of our agreeing to continue to publish you.’

Diski’s sign-off: ‘Apparently, everyone at Knopf stood on their desks and cheered as the letter went off.’

The review is here: