The Big Issue : Edition 543
46 THE BIG ISSUE 11 – 24 AUG 2017 CLICK WORDS BY MICHAEL EPIS » PHOTO BY GETTY Roald Dahl, Ernest Hemingway, 1944 THE BIG ISSUE FICTION EDITION IS ON SALE ... FRIDAY 25 AUGUST AS WE PREPARE for our annual Fiction Edition, it’s only fitting that Click should feature two writers, not usually thought of in the same breath. That doesn’t look like Ernest Hemingway very much. For starters, he is wearing clothes, and of all writers Hemingway was the one most often photographed shirtless (boxing, bathing, fishing, shooting, writing, drinking – he’s worse than Putin). Seeing him in a suit and tie, buttoned up and ill fitting, just seems wrong. It also seems wrong seeing him walking a London street. And Hemingway was a big guy, but he looks so short here. It’s an illusion, because the chap next to him is six foot six, 198cm. It’s Roald Dahl, WWII fighter pilot. Well, he was a fighter pilot, but six months in hospital following the crash of his Gloster Gladiator biplane in the Libyan desert in September 1940 was not enough to repair his body. Hemingway, too, was seriously injured in two successive plane crashes in Africa in 1954; the second involving an explosion that saw erroneous reports of his death. By the time of this photo – May 1944 – Dahl had served in the British Embassy as an air attaché in Washington, which is a way of saying he was a spy. It was there he wrote his first story, ‘Shot Down Over Libya’. Yes, autobiographical. In all likelihood, Dahl was deputised to help Hemingway in 1944, who was reporting on the war, particularly on the RAF. Dahl took the opportunity to glean writing tips from the older writer, and was forever grateful for the advice: “When you are going good, stop writing.” Grammatical infelicity aside, the meaning is that you should stop when you know where the piece is headed. That way, you will want to return to the desk. If you don’t, you might not. Dahl also agreed with Hemingway on the use of adjectives. “Eschew all those beastly adjectives,” he told a student seeking help. And if you have ever wondered why Dahl’s first name lacks an “n”, it’s because his Norwegian parents named him after their countryman, the explorer Roald Amundsen, who led the first expedition to reach the South Pole. In a spooky coincidence, Amundsen too was in a plane crash – but he did not survive.