Roald Dahl's "writing hut"

Picture 38

Here's a fun tour through author Roald Dahl's cramped and -- let's admit it, filthy -- writing hut. Interesting to see where all the magic happened.

My favorite Dahl story is Parson's Pleasure, which I read in his Tales of the Unexpected short story anthology.


  1. That’s what I need–no distractions and Wi-Fi-proof walls.

    Doesn’t look particularly filthy to me, though.

  2. Love Roald Dahl. He is also one of my 11 yr-old daughters favorite writers. Her most favorite is Shel Silverstein…

    I’m so proud I could cry.

  3. I love Dahl’s writing and I love that he challenges me to reconcile the idea of a great artist and a terrible human being.

  4. The flash navigation they force you to use in viewing this seems terribly buggy. Shameful, I was really interested and wasn’t able to get it all.

  5. “Terrible human being” may be a bit hyperbolic. Dahl’s anti-Israel (often analyzed as anti-Semitism, and there are arguments to be made for seeing it both ways) stances I suppose are what you’re referring to. Complex people who are honest about their thoughts and feelings will always suffer when they are scrutinized from a distance.

    Sorry if I have misconstrued you and Dahl did some horribly cruel things to people that I’m unaware of. He did nurse his first wife back to high neural function after her triple aneurism and collaborate on a significant medical device related to his son’s condition, so there seem to be some redeeming qualities that may cut against the label you’re pasting on him.

  6. If you visit the rather good Roald Dahl museum, you can sit in that very chair and start your own novel.

    You can also decorate a chocolate slab (but not whilst you’re in the chair),and see some of the buildings mentioned in “Tthe BFG”.

  7. I think I noticed last night that Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for Imperialist tool James Bond’s You Only Live Twice!

    As for me I see little reason to categorize anti-Israeli setinment as anti-semitic as the Palestinians ARE semites.

  8. As for me I see little reason to categorize anti-Israeli setinment as anti-semitic as the Palestinians ARE semites.

    No, no, no. The new definition of “semite” is “fanatic zionist”. If you oppose any of the more brutal forms or tactics of zionism you are an “anti-semite”. Palestinians are now defined as “gunmen”, “teruhrists”, or “untermenschen“, not “semites”.

    In addition, all genetic data indicating that Palestinian Arabs are the indigenous population of the area formerly known as Palestine is now defined as “non-existent anti-semitic propaganda”. All interpretations of judeo-christian texts that designate Eastern European Jews as indigenous to Israel are now defined as “history” or better yet “science”.

    Get with the program, TW15! The war’s over, and Godwin won!

  9. Ralph Steadman wrote a neat piece called “The Hut” about, well, Dahl’s hut. It features at the front of “The Roald Dahl Treasury” (Jonathan Cape, 1997).

  10. There’s no way I would sit in that chair. “Wheee, look at me, sitting in Roald Dahl’s filthy writing chair!! Whoops, why is it still wet?”

  11. @Keeper of the Lantern
    oddly enough, i went back and watched chitty chitty bang bang last month and found that it was written by ian fleming and dahl wrote the screenplay! crazy, eh?

  12. I guess filthy is relative. Looks “fertile” to me.

    As for the Ian Fleming/James Bond/Chitty Chitty Bang Bang thing, I was delighted to learn that the love interest in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was named “Truly Scrumptious”. Classic Fleming.

  13. From what I recall, the base of the chair’s back is cut away to relieve pressure on Dahl’s lower back. Sadly the area in question is covered in the photos and, as another commentator has noted, the site is a little buggy so it’s impossible to find out for sure.

    I find it hard to see how Dahl was a terrible human being. From all I’ve learnt over the years he was a particularly lovely man – have I missed his involvement in extraordinary renditions?

  14. I love that Roald Dahl’s writing comes in two distinct flavors…

    …kids get to grow up with his deliciously nasty and whimsical books, reading about magical chocolate factories and giant peaches and witches that turn kids into mice…

    ..and then they grow up and get to discover that his books for grownups are just as deliciously nasty, but in a whole new way.

  15. Maybe this explains his utter “filthiness”! :P

    “All Norwegian children learn to swim when they are very young because if you can’t swim it is difficult to find a place to bathe.” – Roald Dahl

  16. I love how low-end photography can expose a human aspect. Which is to say, I’ve conceived this “hut” in my head before and it looked nothing like this. (In part because I often conflate Dahl and Edward Gorey.)

  17. sometime i’ll post a three dimensional view of my laboratory and you can see what filthy really means.

  18. I don’t see a typewriter. Are we to believe he wrote all those books by hand? I don’t get how anybody did anything before wordprocessers, but apparently a few did manage. :0

  19. Roald Dahl was a great writer and a great man, anti-Semitism be damned. Context, people, context. Never forget that even greats (Roald Dahl, H.L. Mencken, Shakespeare, Dickens) are products of their time.

  20. Terrible human being? Perhaps you’re referring to the time he packed hid uncle’s pipe with goat dung? He seldom was less than a gentleman in his actions, at least as far as I have heard.

    On the other hand, one of the reasons he was a great writer was because he was willing to let his characters act out his boarding-school trained reptilian upper-class English id.

  21. Hmph. I forgot to put in my original comment.

    Why isn’t the writing hut red?

    I suppose we may nevertheless still regard it as a
    “little rad writing hut”.


    Terrible human being?


    “Terrible human being” may be a bit hyperbolic.

    From a The Independent (London), March. 21, 1990:
    “I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become anti-Semitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism. I think they should see both sides. It’s the same old thing: we all know about Jews and the rest of it. There aren’t any non-Jewish publishers anywhere, they control the media – jolly clever thing to do – that’s why the President of the United States has to sell all this [military] stuff to Israel.”

    This shocks me, but doesn’t faze me. I have my own issues with Israel; this nonsense with Gaza is insane IMHO. But the reality is people who create things you might like are not necessarily nice people. Remember, there’s the person, the process and the product. Most people consume the product and not much else.

    Charlie Chaplain was an a-hole.
    Peter Sellers was an a-hole.
    Charles Bukowski was a vile abusive human being.
    William Burroughs was a misogynist junkie.

    They all created work that transcends who they are.

    Much in the same way everyone lives in a city where some cantankerous a-hole makes some amazing food or mixes amazing drinks.

    There are no saints out there.

    Unless you want to talk about indie rock snobs who demand you respect the music and the person without compromise. There’s a reason that philosophy doesn’t extend beyond elitist cliques.

  23. Oh for heavens sake, #26, lets get a sense of perspective here, shall we?

    Hitler was a terrible human being. Pol Pot was a terrible human being. Stalin was a terrible human being.

    Roald Dahl was not a terrible human being just for being quoted in an article once as having strong opinions about something that you dont agree with. He never killed anyone, but he did bring an enormous amount of joy to several generations of people.

  24. Roald Dahl’s daughter Tessa also writes books for children. Additionally, she has an interview series on WVVY, the local community run radio station on Martha’s Vineyard. I have a show there as well.

    For anyone interested, check out the (horribly designed – for now) Website at – you can follow links to the stream and listen live online there.

    She interviewed her mother, Patricia Neal, for her first episode.

    The station is a lovely random selection of musings and eccentric audio from various tastes and backgrounds. I was actually considering doing a boing boing inspired “good news” segment in my show (Monkey on the Lam – Thursdays at 8 PM), maybe scouring this site and finding my favorite article of the week and talking about it on the radio.

    I don’t know if her interviews are available online yet, I may be getting more involved in the station on a base level soon, and these things may be archived. The ones I’ve heard so far from her have been very interesting.

  25. It’s so nice to see a writing space that doesn’t look like it was done by an expensive interior decorator. This looks like a place where someone actually works — a little disordered (though his desktops are neater than mine) and no architectural marvel.

    I’m always so depressed when I see writer’s workplaces in newspaper home sections: rooms lined with books, antique desks, just the right art on the walls. The kind of room you can only afford if you inherited great wealth or wrote a bestseller and sold the movie rights.

  26. I’d like to mention Danny the Champion of the World, my favourite book when I was 10 or so. It’s still one of my favourites and is proof that kids stories don’t have to involve magic. Just a good, simple storyline well narrated.

  27. I’d always heard he was antisemetic too, bit I agree you can have issues with the government of Israel, but it doesn’t mean you hate Jews. Still, if the quote that #26 posted is accurate, Dahl was pretty ignorant to subsribe to the “Jews control America and the world” nonsense.

  28. there is a story about Canadian poet Al Purdy, who had a little shed for writing (maybe set up a bit like this). It had a nice little window, but he found he was getting no writing done. Boarded up the window, and bingo, perfect writing shed.
    (how did this comment come out sounding like a Reader’s Digest story? oh well)

  29. Big fan of Georges Marvellous Medicine, and the Twits, but Matilda has to be one of the greatest childrens books! I have been really getting back into Dahl lately – you might wanna check out – There are 3 Golden Tickets being given away by Bayard to go to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. I wanna get my hands on one of those tickets (they are family tickets!) but reckon i may end up going at some point anyway. x

  30. “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity; maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean there is always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.” — Roald Dahl, “The New Statesman” (1983).

    Sorry, Dahl fans, but that’s not “anti-Zionism” or “legitimate criticism of Israel.” That’s just plain old-fashioned bigotry, and there’s no excusimg it.

  31. That’s just what I need too. A hideaway. No distractions, and no moans from the Better-half, about papers everywhere. I’d use a laptop, off-line mind, but that board across the chair is a great idea. I would have absolutely NO excuses to slack then. No more procrastination; after all… Tomorrow is promised to no one.

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