It’s not often I get to read a Roald Dahl story for the first time, much less twice in one day!
A few weeks ago I was contacted by Zoran Pajic, who was trying to find a copy of an obscure story that Dahl had contributed to called “Death in the Square: A Christmas Mystery in Four Parts.” It was published in the December 24, 1988 issue of The Daily Telegraph Magazine. I had to confess I’d never heard of it! I went down a research rabbit-hole and eventually managed to locate a copy with the help of a librarian friend, Amy Allenspach. It’s a very, very odd story, and I’ve written up a plot description if you’re curious. Thanks for the prompt, Zoran, and thank you Amy for assisting!
Ever since Zoran’s question, I’ve continued to research the various periodicals that published Dahl short stories. I started with the list at the end of Sturrock’s biography. Sturrock says that the first printing of “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” was in the September 1974 issue of The New Yorker. However, when I started looking for it I discovered this is an error. The story was actually published in the September 14, 1974 issue of The New York Times. I managed to find a copy of the issue, and to my surprise the story is quite different from the version I was familiar with. Dahl relates it as a true story that happened to him, and there’s no mention of Claud in it anywhere. It also has a slightly different title. I’ve transcribed Dahl’s introduction and added some funny letters that were later published in The Times as a response. Pretty cool!