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field tested, Roald Dahl’s Omnibus at Schloss Emlau

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:04 pm

I think the Coudal Partners’ Field Tested Books Series is pretty interesting so I thought I’d try one of my own.

Roald Dahl’s Omnibus field tested by yours truly at Schloss Emlau, outside of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany. Early August 1995.

I was in Germany with my second cousins and their parents (my dad’s cousin, her husband and children), the Fuesers. I’d just finished 8th grade and was going to be starting high school in about a month. The Fuesers lived in Solingen near Koeln and Duesseldorf and the like. It was my first trip far away from my immediate family (I’d gone to London and Amsterdam with my brother the previous year) and my German was spotty from three years of slow and substandard German education. Part of the reason to go, I think, was to improve my German. I was nervous and shy about my German skills. I’d think for ten minutes about how to ask someone to pass the chocolates only to have them offer before I asked. Eventually I gave up trying and that turned into a refusal as the trip went along. The Fuesers all spoke English fairly well—they spoke English better than I spoke German certaintly—but it was obvious my refusal to speak German was a strain on them.

After about two weeks in Solingen, we left for the south of Germany, for Schloss Emlau, more of a nice hotel than a castle (Schloss = castle, palace). It was perhaps sometime during the car trip, or perhaps only after I arrived at the Schloss Elmau that I started Omnibus. Most people know Roald Dahl for his children’s stories, but the Omnibus included many of his short stories, including those that he contributed to Playboy. I was no longer a kid and I was reading “adult” stories.

There was a dance in the grand ballroom at Schloss Elmau. I didn’t want to dance. (I wasn’t much of a rebelious teenager, but I say that this German trip landed smack dab in the middle of my three months of rebelion.) Instead, I would go up to the balcony overlooking the ballroom, dressed up in my flannel greys and shirt and tie (because, my aunt decided doggoneit, even if I wasn’t going to dance, I had to be dressed in case I changed my mind) and read the story about a family feeding their weak baby royal jelly only to see it start turning into a bee. Roald Dahl has a way with characters and stories. They’re not subtle or overly complex, but they’re good.

I’d also read at night. My bed was across the room from the son’s, Justus’, and I’d read with the light on while he was asleep. My innocent fourteen year mind absolutely exploded a story about two buddies trading wifes (without their knowledge) for a night. This story is quite possibly less graphic than what ones sees on prime time TV and definitely less graphic than what one sees in any R-rated movie, but my young mind was sent reeling and I had to contend with a funny feeling in my pajama pants.

I read it quite quickly. It was good and I was lonely. All my communications were strained so I withdrew.

On the last day at Schloss Elmau, I made a concession: I went to a class to learn the Schloss Elmau dance with the daughter, Olga, and we danced it at the dance that night in the ballroom. I’d learned all the steps well but it went into a freeform waltz portion at the end, during which I repeatedly stepped on Olga’s feet. We decided to sit down instead of dance that part.

One Response to “field tested, Roald Dahl’s Omnibus at Schloss Emlau”

  1. adrian is rad » two years and still the same thing: a state of the blog address Says:

    […] I also like posts like how to wash and dry your socks and underwear if your crap airline strands you in Las Vegas when you’re trying to get home for Christmas and a couple of the posts where I wrote about my adolescent or past expieriences, like this one about Roald Dahl’s Omnibus and my fifth trip to Germany. The covers contest has come and gone, but now I have online mixtapes to impose on you. […]

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