Sunday, 27 October 2013

Non-Fiction Reads: Going Solo by Roald Dahl


A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones. An autobiography must therefore, unless it is to become tedious, be extremely selective, discarding all the inconsequential incidents in one's life and concentrating upon those that have remained vivid in the memory.  
- Introduction, Going Solo by Roald Dahl 

Going Solo is the second part of Roald Dahl's memoirs.It is as vivid and engaging as Boy, Dahl's astonishingly well-written account of his childhood.Cumulatively, the two part memoir gives us the first 25 years of the writer's life in gripping episodic narration.

An 'extremely selective' approach also means that the book is scandal free and safe enough to be published under the Penguin children's book imprint Puffin. Yet war, death, nudity, empire builders, aflame fighter planes, sinking ships and charred bodies make it to the book. 

Each incident is aptly and chronologically placed in a new chapter.Again, Dahl's detailing and uncanny knack to take the reader along clinches the deal. The ink that flows in his spontaneous writing can't be pinned down to any style. A lively document of life recalled as it was lived; by the looks of it Dahl seems to have nailed it all in the first draft, except for corrections or deletions, probably. 

Going Solo starts off where Boy wrapped up.It is 1938 and the writer under a three-year contract with the Shell Oil Company is aboard a ship taking him from England to Africa.Apart from hilarious proceedings on the ship, Dahl starts with the joys of a long journey - Nowadays you can fly to Mombasa in a few hours and you stop nowhere and nothing is fabulous any more...  

Arrival at Dar es Salaam, tales of deadly snakes, lions and his African staff are a storyteller's pride, the blaze of World War II only adds more intensity to the proceedings. The wrath of Germany is everywhere and consequently Dahl asks leave from Shell in 1939 to join the RAF at Nairobi. Considering the severe caution that travellers exercise nowadays, it is exciting to read about the writer's solo marathon four wheeler rides across deserts and jungles.Not a word seems wasted - the book ends with Dahl's return to England in 1941, flying into his waiting mother's arms.

Few writers can claim to have faced death many times or to have had as many adventures as Roald Dahl.There is nothing like a first hand account and Going Solo has the long-lasting sheen of experience that provides credibility to the narrative.Interspersed with reproductions of photographs, documents and letters written during those uncertain three years, Going Solo is highly recommended.  

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Roald Dahl in his RAF outfit

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