a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


My thoughts on love


Life’s peculiarities reflected in art
Frederic Raphael Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

And one of the things I've always felt about life in general – not a particularly astute observation – is that to keep talking about what causes things and why we do things and all the rest of it is generally a vain activity. I don't know why we do things. I don't even entirely know why I'm doing this. Vanity is certainly a reason. Fear of death. Desire to leave something behind. Garrulity. You asked me. Au choix.

On the other hand, it is extraordinary how things lie in relation to other things. The notion that it's always a causal relation is, first of all, unprovable, and secondly, perhaps not interesting. But one does notice how odd life is and that's the fun of being a writer. The further one goes through with things, the more I find that narrative has these gaps that I talk about. It used to be that you tried to fill them in. Now I'm more disposed to leave the gap, rather as Pinter discovered the pause. Unfortunately, the pauses are more interesting than the dialogue in many cases. This is not to my mind necessarily an improvement. I have no objection to Pinter's work. I just don't have any interest in it. Because Pinter's work, to my mind... well, it reminds me of a story that Dirk Bogarde told me. I think it was in a book of his but I... he did tell it to me because I remember talking to him about it. And he said that Pinter became suddenly, sort of, West Endy. And Dirk said to me, I asked Pinter why, in The Servant script, why did all the sort of posh people always have lobster thermidor for dinner? And Dirk, who was extremely méchant and ill-advised in his méchanceté, said that I kind of realised, after I had asked the question, that Pinter thought that all rich people always had lobster thermidor for dinner.

And this is... I think we all make these kinds of mistakes, if we do, in misreading toffs in particular. We tend, of course, to assume that, for instance, the upper classes are much wittier than they are. Oscar Wilde did it and who am I to dissent from that? They aren't necessarily all that witty. I tend to enjoy writing what I think of as gentile books, which I've done quite a few of, i.e. books with no Jews in them. I don't mean they're for gentiles, I just mean they haven't got any Jews in them. I don't really give a shit whether they have Jews in them or not, to tell you the truth. And a book which has got lots of Jews in it, called Lindmann, that doesn't have the word 'Jew' in it at all. A sort of Perec-type conceit. It's also a way of holding something back which makes the reader wish that he could see the word Jew on the page whereas normally he would dread seeing it. Sex scenes are best done in this way also, as I hope I've shown in Private Views.

I don't mean... one credits other people with more wit than they have and perhaps wrongly. Clive James once said to Tom Conti when he didn't... when he had... he said to Tom Conti, well, I mean the thing that's wrong with The Glittering Prizes is that nobody talks like that. And Conti said, oh you haven't met Freddie, have you? He has now, Clive. And actually we've become rather friends, mainly because of our daughter Sarah, to whom he was very kind in giving her space to paint and so on when she was a young painter. He also, of course, made the routine passes but she resisted these with some ease. And they were very good friends and they had lots of laughs together. And she painted an absolutely pitiless portrait or two of him with enormous forearms and all the rest of it. And Sarah, more than me, possibly from me, partly perhaps just adjacent to me, had an absolutely pitiless eye. And the fact that she liked you would not in the least prevent her from depicting you exactly as you look. And she did that with me. The... she didn't paint me but she did do a drawing of me. And I thought I looked very old and sad. And I suppose rather like... like Whistler, you know. You will, Oscar, you will. And when she died, I looked like her picture. So that's the way it all goes.

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: Harold Pinter, Dirk Bogarde, Clive James, Tom Conti, Sarah Raphael

Duration: 4 minutes, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014