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The elegance of good art


Art is like love and love and is like luck
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I think... I think art, actually, and love have something in common which is that if I tell you that I'm doing art now, you are permitted to smile to yourself and think: fancy pants. If I say, I'm writing a book or I'm writing an article or I'm doing this and I hope it's going to be interesting, or whatever, that's okay, and you can read my thing and then you can say, 'You know what? This is a work of art'. It is a judgement, not an activity in my view. My job is to do what I do as well as I can. When does carpentry become an art? When it's done by Mr Chippendale? When Mr Chippendale sells his work at a very high price? When a critic says it's art? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. The great thing is to do the best work you possibly can. And love, it seems to me again – you may notice that I love my wife, but I would be wise not to put advertisements in the paper about it. There's a lovely line, I don't know why it comes to mind... a film that's directed by Chabrol, about Bluebeard – the same story that Chaplin did in Monsieur Verdoux. And in Chabrol's film, Monsieur Verdoux is eventually, as he was indeed, condemned to death to be guillotined. And on the way to the guillotine in the... in Chabrol's movie, the official in... who's escorting him says to him, 'Now, you know, given that you only have a few minutes left, tell me, did you... did you really kill all those women?' And the line which is written by Françoise Sagan which sticks in my mind is, 'Ça? C'est mon petit bagage'. And how do you do it or what makes Beetle... why do you think Beetle's loved you for 60 years and why have you loved her? 'Ça c'est mon petit bagage'.  Actually, there's nothing in the bagage because I don't know what it says, but if I did, I wouldn't tell you. And I'd be right. And if I exposed it, it would perish. So love is like luck. Never assume it's yours, never assume it'll last, just hope it will.

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: Monsieur Verdoux

Duration: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014