CAIRO – 13 September 2017: September 13 is the birth-date of acclaimed author Roald Dahl, responsible for giving the world ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, ”Matilda”, and other classics adapted countless times.
Born in Southern Wales in 1916, Dahl’s extraordinary life and career sprung from tragic roots. At merely three years of age, he lost both his father and sister. His mother sent him to boarding school with good intentions, unaware that a young Dahl would suffer from abusive discipline and mischievous adventures, which he recounted in his 1984 book “Boy: Tales of Childhood”.
As a teenager, Dahl began a life of adventure and travel, visiting Tanzania in East Africa and Canada’s Newfoundland before signing up in the draft for World War II, where he became an ace fighter pilot, flying as far as Greece, Syria, and the Libyan Desert, where he was shot down on 1940, suffering serious injuries.
He remained hospitalized in Alexandria for six months, although the instant he recovered, Dahl returned to action, serving at The Battle of Athens. Later, he became a spy for the American government, and wrote about his time in the war for the Saturday Evening Post.
Dahl’s first children’s book came under none other than Walt Disney, where he wrote “The Gremlins” in 1943; a book written for an animated Disney film that never came to life. Still, it was the start of a rich and creative career. In 1953, Dahl married American actress Patricia Neal, who he divorced after 30 years. They formed a large family of over four children.
To entertain them, Dahl shifted from adult books he previously worked on to writing children’s stories, and in 1961 he wrote “James and the Giant Peach”, his first full novel for a young audience which he dedicated to his older daughters and became a bestseller. The book was adapted into a 1996 stop-motion animated film by Henry Selick.
Dahl’s most popular book, and indeed one of the most famed children’s books of all time, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was written in 1964, drawing from Dahl’s childhood love for chocolate from his time at boarding school. The widely-loved story has been adapted numerous times, including a 1971 film starring Gene Wilder directed by Mel Staurt and written by Dahl himself. More recently, the story was adapted by quirky director Tim Burton in 2005, with Johnny Depp playing Willy Wonka.
Dahl’s incredible creative output is unrivaled. In 1970, he wrote “Fantastic Mr Fox”, which was adapted into a stop-motion animated film by director Wes Anderson, and was nominated for 2 Oscars.
The 1980s was another prolific year for Dahl, where he produced beloved classics including “Twits”, “The Witches”, and “the BFG”. The latter was recently adapted into a 2016 Disney film directed by Stephen Spielberg.
It was during this decade that Dahl wrote “Matilda”, another one of his beloved stories. The tale of a little girl with psychic powers was turned into a 1996 film starring and directed by Danny Devito, featuring Mara Wilson and Embeth Davidtz.
In 1990, Dahl passed away at the age of 74, with his final work, “The Minpins”, released posthumously. His second wife, Felicity Crosland, helped preserve his legacy by founding the The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and Roald Dahl's Marvelous Children's Charity. Dahl’s collected works have been proven to be timeless, a cradle of creativity that will continue to inspire.
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