Stinker

Jenny Diski

  • Roald Dahl: A Biography by Jeremy Treglown
    Faber, 307 pp, £17.50, March 1994, ISBN 0 571 16573 7

It goes against all the currents of current wisdom that a public man should be just what he seems to be. Is there anyone left in the world who doesn’t believe at some level or other in the disjunction between appearance and reality? I suppose somewhere deep in the forests where no white man has trod; in the highest, most inaccessible plateaux of some far-flung mountainous region, there might be a few primitive folk left who still think that what they see is what there is. But the rest of us are not completely astonished to discover that nice, ordinary MPs who take decent girls to Tory fund-raising dances prefer stockings and electric flex in the privacy of their own kitchens, or that our favourite English poet of quiet suburban gloom had a nasty sense of humour and some unfortunate habits. We know that beneath all exteriors lie subterranean streams and caverns where the private, unknowable self contradicts the stated desires and achievements of the visible life.

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