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Who was Titus Flavius Josephus?


A change of focus in my life
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I've gone on working because the brain insists on doing this stuff. And I've done some pretty good work since she [Sarah] died. I haven't done as much fiction as I would've liked, but I've done other things.

When she died, I found I couldn't write in English for a while, so I only wrote in French in my notebook. And my French is not good enough to be published but it's good enough to be written down and to convey what I wanted to say. And I still do a bit of that when I'm distressed, in particular about Sarah. But I published a lot of my notebooks in the last 13 years, with Sarah's... always with Sarah's pictures on the front of my cover. And I think of those books as being sort of for her. And inadvertently, I think, that the notebooks which I've been keeping since... since Cambridge contain more truth about what I think about the world. I decided very early on to try not to talk about how I felt in my notebooks. I do a bit of it, about being miserable or angry with this or that person or having resented this review or the other. But in principle, which I stick to pretty keenly about 90% of the time, I only describe things. I describe people, I describe conversations, I talk about books, I talk about ideas, I talk about – God help us – the Jews.

The Jews. I remember quite early on in my life when I was slightly involved and I suppose even at the synagogue I think, during the time when I was doing a play there, somebody said to me rather challengingly, are you proud of being a Jew or proud of being Jewish? And to tell the honest truth... well, my answer was not very honest. I said, 'Are you proud of being left-handed?' I regarded being Jewish as being one of those things, a kind of given. You couldn't get out of it because that's what had happened, like being left-handed, right-handed or blind in one eye. But to be proud of it implied being concerned with what Jews had done. And there I'm in a sense, in Nabokov's party. Nabokov, whom I met incidentally in 1970 when I was going to do a book of his for a screenplay. Nabokov said once somebody said to him, 'What do you think about the future of the novel, Mr Nabokov?' To which he replied, 'I am not concerned about the future of the novel. I am concerned about the future of my novel'.

I am not immensely concerned about the future of the planet. I am not immensely bothered about the plight of anybody very much, copiously as I may weep to see any specific person ill-used in any context. I can't do anything about the world. And since Sarah died, I've sort of more or less given up programmes for the improvement of mankind. I don't think mankind is going to improve. I don't think he can improve. You can improve and I can improve. And then I come back to Casals and the cello. When he was in his 90s he said to somebody, 'I can't see you in the morning because I have to practice'. They said, 'Maestro, at your age, why do you want to practice?' And he said, 'Because I might get better'.

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, Vladimir Nabokov

Duration: 3 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014