“The Visitor”

Sections: Information | Plot Description | Fun Stuff 


Information


Plot Description

This is the first story in which we meet Oswald Hendryks Cornelius, noted seducer extraordinaire. It’s a story-within-a-story that begins as the narrator explains how he came to inherit all 28 volumes of his uncle’s memoirs. It’s interesting to note that the narrator seems to be Dahl himself: a letter from Oswald makes reference to “you and your three sisters,” and Dahl, of course, had three sisters himself. Note: this is a very adult story in tone and probably shouldn’t be read by any children without permission from their parents.

Spoiler warning! After inheriting his long-absent uncle’s books, the narrator reads through them all and desperately wants them to be published and shared with the world. Unfortunately the books contain many salacious details, including the names of many (married) woman that Oswald slept with and whose husbands would not find such a scandal appealing. After consulting with a lawyer, the narrator determines that the “Sinai Desert Episode” is probably safe to print. Before launching into this, the very last entry from the diary, the narrator describes his uncle and the singular effect he seems to have had on women. He was a fastidious man who collected walking sticks, ties made from spider silk, and Chinese porcelain. He had a way of speaking that seemed to hypnotize the listener (usually a woman) and put her into a spell of lust.

The Sinai Desert episode is dated 1946 and involves Oswald’s escape from Cairo following a romantic rendezvous with an aristocratic Moorish woman (and another man’s mistress). He decides to drive to Jerusalem via the desert road and search for scorpions to add to his collection. He succeeds with the scorpion but when he stops for gasoline the diseased attendant tells him that his fan belt has broken. He will have to spend the night in the desert and wait for a new fan belt to arrive. As Oswald resigns himself to this, a Rolls-Royce drives up and a wealthy man steps out. They quickly get to know each other and the rich man, Abdul Aziz, invites Oswald to spend the night at his house nearby. The man explains on the way that he chooses to live in such a wild location in order to protect his beautiful young daughter from the unwanted attention of men. Oswald is astounded when he meets the mother and daughter, and he can’t make his mind up which one he wants to seduce. They both go immediately to their own bedrooms, though, without giving him any indication of a possible rendezvous. He is disappointed but prepares to go to sleep. In the middle of the night, his door opens and a woman climbs into bed with him. After hours of energetic lovemaking, she slips out as silently as she arrived. Oswald believes he will be able to tell which it was by a bite mark he has left on her neck. But the next morning, BOTH of them are wearing scarves! As Abdul drives him back to the gas station, Oswald fishes for an invitation back to the house. Abdul doesn’t take the bait, though, and after a while he admits that there is another reason he lives in such an isolated spot. He has another daughter living in the house… and she has leprosy. “Dear fellow, you mustn’t alarm yourself like this,” he tells Oswald. “You have to have the most intimate contact with the person in order to catch it…” Shaking, Oswald returns to his repaired car and watches the Rolls-Royce drive back off across the desert.


“B***h”

Sections: Information | Plot Description | Reviews


Information


Plot Description

This very adult story is from Dahl’s book Switch B***h and probably shouldn’t be read by any children without the consent of their parents. With that in mind, I’m going to keep the plot/description rather simple and vague.

Spoiler warning! Oswald meets up with an olfactory chemist (a scientist of smells) who wants to isolate the human sex pheromone. They accomplish this feat and successfully test the new perfume, which they label “B***h.” Unfortunately the scientist’s lab assistant steals almost all of their supply and then Henri, the scientist, dies of a heart attack during exertions brought on by the pheromone. Armed with only a small remainder and unable to make more, Uncle Oswald decides to have some fun. He plants the liquid in a large flower corsage to be worn by an obnoxious woman sitting next to the President on live television. His plans derail, however, when she unknowingly releases the perfume in his presence in her hotel room. A spectacularly surreal sex scene concludes the story.


Reviews


My Uncle Oswald

Sections: Information | Description | ReviewsFun Stuff | Covers | Catalan, CzechFrench, GermanJapaneseRussian, and Slovenian Covers


Information

Information on identifying editions is from Richard Walker’s “Roald Dahl – A Guide to Collecting His First Editions”.

  • First editions:
    • Michael Joseph, 1979, UK.
      • To identify: Used a standard single statement (‘First published’ followed by the date with later printings stated underneath) and published with a dust jacket priced at £5.50.
    • Knopf, 1980, USA.
      • To identify: Used a standard ‘First Edition’ statement and published with a dust jacket priced at $8.95.
  • Trivia:
    • Occasionally referred to as Dahl’s “first” novel (even by the author), despite Some Time Never‘s publication 30 years earlier.
  • Connections:
  • Buy this book:

Description

The nameless narrator has revealed snippets of the lovable, lascivious Uncle Oswald’s life in other collections, but this is the only novel – brief though it is – dedicated solely to the diaries of “the greatest fornicator of all time.” Inspired by stories of the aphrodisiac powers of the Sudanese blister beetle, the palpable seductiveness of the lovely Yasmin Howcomely, and the scientific know-how of Professor A. R. Woresley, Uncle Oswald anticipates the concept of the Nobel sperm bank by some 40 years, flimflamming crowned heads, great artists, and eccentric geniuses into making “donations.” The life of a commercial sperm broker has a few surprises even for a sophisticated bon vivant, and Dahl manages his signature sting-in-the-tail ending even in one of his lightest comic works.


Reviews

  • “Satire and Sensitivity” by Marion Halligan from the May 24, 1980 issue of The Canberra Times – Canberra, Australia (read online)
  • “Offbeat biographies” by Lyn Frost from the March 1, 1981 issue of The Canberra Times – Canberra, Australia (read online)
  • “Crime and Passion” review column by Darcy O’Brien from the April 21, 1980 issue of New York Magazine (read online)

Fun Stuff

Tearsheet (Poster) by American illustrator Mel Odom
Tearsheet (Poster) by American illustrator Mel Odom

Covers


Catalan Covers – Oncle Oswald


Czech Covers – Můj strýček Oswald


French Covers – Mon oncle Oswald


German Covers – Onkel Oswald und der Sudankäfer


Japanese Covers – オズワルド叔父さん


Russian Covers – Мой дядюшка Освальд


Slovenian Covers – Moj striček Oswald