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How I became an – unwilling – Charterhouse Scholar


England becomes our post-war home
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I heard a few bombs fall. And when we went down to Bognor Regis on the 1944 summer holidays, I used to watch the buzz bombs going along the front and over the sea and all the way past us towards, I suppose, Southampton and sometimes they would fall into the sea and sometimes they would go on. It was actually rather fun. It never occurred to me that I was in any danger during the war. I had the sort of sense of immunity which the only child of a Jewish mother is sometimes alleged to have. 

So the war ended upon which my father was offered again the job in Rockefeller Center in New York which he had agreed to postpone because of the war. During the war, my father was actually about to be seconded to a mission to Russia, and he was going to be given the rank of colonel because it would enable him to impress the Russians. I was rather pleased to think of my father being a colonel because he wasn't in the forces, but for some reason they thought better of sending him. It may have been because the Russians perhaps didn't want a Jew to be in this delegation – I don't know. Or maybe the English didn't want a Jew to be in the delegation – who can say? Anyway, by the time the war ended, I was ready to take my scholarship to Winchester, my school specialising getting people into Winchester. And my father thought about going back to New York and then, supposedly, he decided that it would not be fair on me if he were to do so since I was now likely to get a Classical scholarship and that would not be much use to me in New York. I have a notion that his mother, who was still alive and very domineering as a serious hypochondriac can be, was determined not to let him get away, but there we are. She never spoke to my mother nor my mother to her. We were not, as they say, a close-knit family.

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: Winchester College

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014