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A change of focus in my life


Grieving for my daughter
Frederic Raphael Writer
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But I wrote a lot of stuff and I did another television series and all the rest of it. And so we went on, frankly, in our lives as if, curiously enough, we were living in a kind of... not exactly isolated, but a... but a kind of blessed condition – Beetle and me and our children. The children were beautiful. They didn't do drugs – well, certainly didn't do drugs that I knew about. And they didn't propose to do drugs. They didn't drink more than a bit. Sarah was quite naughty in her way, but that's okay, she was an art student. And she began to sell her work and everything else. And then she married someone that she... well, it... that wasn't a great marriage. She had three children, they're very beautiful and we love them dearly, and they're very like her.

And she was very frail and she did take a lot of prescription drugs because she had terrible migraines. And she did very good work and she had terrible migraines. And in... she... her husband and she... she and her husband parted and she took up with somebody else. And he was a perfectly nice architect guy, but he was more concerned with architecture than with her health. And she got ill and nobody seemed to notice. And it wasn't our business and we didn't really realise. And she got pneumonia and she went into hospital and they said she was okay, and then they said she was dead. And that was in January of 2001. And, to tell you the truth, I don't know what's happened since then.

If I look it up, I mean, I can only say that once again, Beetle really saved... saved the situation. I mean, I don't have to say how we felt. I can't even say how we felt. And I was in a state of whatever I was in. And so was Beetle, but Beetle is different from me. That's one of the reasons why we're together, I suppose, and like, as well. And Beetle said, 'We were together before Sarah was born and we're going to be together again'. And we are. The boys were terrific. Sarah died and Will Boyd, a friend of mine, the young novelist, whose father was a doctor, said to me... us, very... he came to see us the day after we got the news, while we were sitting in this room. And he said, 'You must not be sorry for Sarah. There's nothing to be sorry for, for her. You're only sorry for yourself. I understand. But just don't think it's your duty to be sad. It isn't'. Which was good advice.

I... as you can well see, I still can't really talk about Sarah in public very easily. I've never understood these people who can go on television and appear on programmes and talk blithely about people who've been murdered or died in accidents as if they were sort of nothing to do with them. Sarah was everything to do with us. And because she was an artist and because she and I had a sort of extraordinary rapport, I have been bereft of the only friend of my work, apart from Beetle, that I could talk to and who could talk to me in the same way. And I've discovered that actually, the unity of the arts, which people somehow didn't sometimes deny, is much closer than we imagine. Painting and writing are very similar. I like to write in longhand in my notebook, in which I've written millions and millions of words, because the fingers do the work. Sarah could paint and be on the telephone at the same time. And she would occasionally look to see what her fingers were doing. And they were doing very careful work by the way, sometimes with a brush with one hair.

And Sarah died and our responsibility, of course, was to her children. Our son, Stephen, who was then in his mid-30s or early 30s, said that he would live with the children with Sarah's other ex-partner, the... Renato Benedetti, who is an architect. And he went and lived in the house with the children for 10 years. He wanted to be a screenwriter and luckily at that time, I was earning enough money to pay him enough to keep him going and to do screenplays and stuff. He's still doing them, with some success now. It's now 14 years, if it's... that's 13 years, isn't it, since Sarah's death. So sort of getting over it and not getting over it, it doesn't really come into it.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Sarah Raphael

Duration: 5 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014