Saturday, 23 September 2017

Lust - by Roald Dahl

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have bought a set of four books by Roald Dahl that 
explore human nature’s darker side.

It was difficult to decide which book to start reading first and finally settled for what I believe is the easiest of the titles to understand. So I found myself opening the one called Lust, still unsure of how the author would present that feeling in his ten short stories about the subject.

I do not have a clear idea of what it is I expected out of the tales. I assumed it would be about lovers, cheating, sudden attraction, the heat of the moment. Instead I read through the first story to find that Dahl was very much into presenting a more subdued and everyday version of how Lust can interfere in, or take over, our life.

His writing is detailed and vivid, making the reader want to turn the page every time, even when the characters are idly sitting around a table in the bar. There is something comic about the way the scenes are presented and the very dialogue of the characters big and small. In the first story it is as if the narrator, though not one of the characters, is nonetheless in their minds. He presents whatever is going on in a way that is in keeping with their characters. In fact, two out of the three main characters are always called by their nickname, as they would call each other in 'real' life.

In the second story, he presents the beautiful Natalia, the cheating wife, exactly as she would be. There is no cooing and luring of the narrator as despite his attraction to her, she cares nothing for him. She is dismissive instead and surprised when he takes up her offer to be a guest in her mansion, which she made out of politeness during small talk rather than with any intention that he would take it up. Later on, when she is caught (even literally!) in the wrong, her allure vanishes and her panicked self shows through.

Reading Dahl’s short stories reminded me of those by Graham Greene, only the latter is purposely depressive in his presentation of the stories. Dahl, on the other hand, plays with his imaginative narratives in a way that suggests he thinks his characters’ situations are absurd. It is almost as if he is laughing at the ridiculous situations that people are ready to get into for lust.

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