My love affair with Dahl continues (I call him Baby-Dahl and he calls me Sweetums). This story is a continuation of one of my favorites, The Visitor, which introduces Uncle Oswald as a character driving in the Sinai desert who gets stranded when his car breaks down, and lured into a local wealthy man’s home.
In this book, Uncle Oswald explains how he earned his fortune through a combination of chicanery, talent, inspired judgement, and luck. Before starting Cambridge, Oswald heard of a miracle beetle that acted as Viagra for the early twentieth century, and procured a massive amount of these beetles from Sudan, ground them into powder, then created pills that he sold to Ambassadors to France from other countries for large sums.
His entrepreneurship was interrupted by a few months at Cambridge, whereupon he hatched the second phase of his plot for cash: selling the sperm of famous men to wealthy women who wanted their own Proust/Stravinsky/Renoir/Puccini/royalty/etc as a child. He enlists the help of his professor (Woresley), who invented the technique of freezing sperm for later us, along with an incredibly sensual woman (Yasmin) whom no man would turn down, especially after dosed with the beetle powder.
The rest of the book is a madcap whirlwind of running around Europe seducing famous men and filling up their sample case. A hatpin is jammed two inches into the King of Spain’s buttocks to stop him from continuing. Freud stops to analyze the situation before proceeding. Einstein cannot fathom what is happening to him and smells a fish. The artists and musicians are all enthusiastic and unquestioning while the writers are more skeptical. There is a twist at the end, of course.
In Oswald’s own words:
I was a sybarite. I wished to lead a life of luxury and leisure. I would never get bored. That was not my style. But I would never be completely satisfied unless the luxury was intensely luxurious and the leisure was unlimited.