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Knocking the House platoon into shape


Bullied for being Jewish
Frederic Raphael Writer
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In 1947/8, for some reason which I have never yet discovered, quite abruptly I became the object of what one of the descendants, the direct descendants actually, of William Ewart Gladstone was pleased to call a 'Jew bait'. Now, I was quite a large and fairly strong person so nobody ever laid a hand on me, but you don't need to lay hands on people in order to turn them into pariahs. So to my chagrin – somewhat tearful chagrin from time-to-time – I did have a study of my own so I could go in and shut the door, but I was subjected for not that long a time, maybe a week, maybe two weeks, first of all, nobody spoke to me and secondly, certain jokes were told endlessly in the dorm at night and when I was sitting having lunch and when people spilt things on my food and on and on and on it went for quite a long time, and I became quite depressed about it. In fact, very depressed which of course cheered the enemy up greatly. I noticed also that certain people did not participate, but they made no gesture of friendship or consolation, they just didn't do what the others did and later regarded themselves as having done something rather friendly, but I didn't particularly take that view. And although in terms of persecution it was to say the least a bruise-free occasion, one can't determine what sort of thing marks one for life, and comic or pathetic or whatever it is, that marked me for life. I learned with incredible speed, or with what incredible speed, people who you thought were your friends would turn against you, whether they were people I'd acted in plays with or walked up to school with or anything else. No Classicists by the way. A curious brand of people, Classicists. Not, God knows, necessarily the salt of the earth, but something quite different. Anyway, I confronted one or two people and that didn't seem to do any good, and then one day there was a place called Hall where everybody over 16 tended to congregate where we kept our food in which they had managed to drop my butter on the floor and various other things, and they were all, my enemies were assembled there by chance and I walked in and there was the usual kind of noise and I said, I don't know where I got it from, very untypical, I said, 'I'm going to fight you, all of you, but here's what's going to happen', I managed to say without bursting into tears, 'I'm going to start with the weakest because otherwise there's always a risk I won't get to them, so I'm starting with you and then it'll be you and then it'll be you so are you ready?' And they rather quickly left the room. But I have to say I wasn't as gallant as all that because previous to this I had written a letter to my father in which I said that I had been... because I was 'the Yid', that was the word that I used, that was the word they used. I was 'the Yid' and and and and and and... I hadn't confided in my father at all usually, but this was a very panicky letter and he was panicked. And he at that time was running press relations for Shell, so he showed my letter or got it shown to, of all people, Rebecca West who in those days was writing in The Evening Standard and who had written a book called The Meaning of Treason in which she had written with some vigor about anti-Semitism among other things. She had also attended some of those trials, I think, in Germany. So, strangely enough, the first thing of mine which ever appeared in the public prints appeared in The Evening Standard because she printed my letter completely. I didn't know this, but there it was. I saw it sometime later. Meanwhile, my father was afraid I was going to commit suicide which I have to say was not on my agenda at all though I may have... I may have been dramatic enough to hint at it when I wrote to him – I can't remember. Anyway, he came down to see the headmaster who was a man called George Turner who had been headmaster of Marlborough and didn't really like being at Charterhouse much. And my father went to see him and said to him, I think that, you know, my son is at risk. I think he might kill himself. This is what's going on and here is what he wrote to me. George Turner, who was a prissy little man, said, 'What do you expect in a Christian school? And what do you want me to do?' And my father who was all of 45 at this point or 46, not a very old man, but I thought he was... he was then, my father said, 'You could do your duty perhaps', which seems to have been quite a good answer in the circumstances, very British. Anyway, it all suddenly stopped and whether it was because of my brave stand which I don't entirely believe or because the word had been passed to my housemaster that he better do something about it, suddenly all the people who had been 'yidding' me all the time stopped and as usual with people who are unkind to other people they quite forgave themselves almost instantly. So I was in the strange position as I continued to rise in the school, and there is a comic element to all of this, of being treated absolutely as if I had always been their friend. And then I was supposed, of course, to treat them as my friends, and I did. But, for the rest of my life with regard to males I have always held something back in my friendships with anybody, not on purpose, just because I have.

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: The Evening Standard, Rebecca West

Duration: 6 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014