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Amorous but not erotic


I was a solitary observer
Frederic Raphael Writer
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[Q] One of the things that I feel I don't know is whether you had any friends really.

At Charterhouse? 

[Q] I mean, this is a terrible tale you tell about your enemies, but did you have friends and...

I had a quite interesting experience, really. I didn't like myself when I was at Charterhouse very much. I was quite good at... at what Jews, as I say, and I think plenty of other people are good at, that is, I was good at imitating what worked in terms of creating fear in particular with smaller boys because you had to try and handle them. Jeremy Atkinson, whose father was a naval officer who'd actually been drowned off Singapore during the war, Jeremy had a kind of very tight-lipped cold way of looking at people. He actually sort of deliberately... and I learned that and it's very effective actually. I mean it really, really scares people. I kicked about with people. I laughed. After my experience of being a Yid I didn't know any other Jews. You see there were other Jews but there was no Jewish solidarity in Charterhouse. We all went our separate timid ways or more or less timid ways. People who were good at boxing were naturally less intimidated than others. I wasn't good at boxing, I was afraid of being... of hurting my nose. Anyway, I don't think I did have any friends but they would be shocked to hear me say so. That's how it is.

I became extremely solitary and I came back from New York in the summer of 1949 with a notebook with a spiral spine in which I wrote things down... nothing very nice about anybody but a lot of it very accurate. A lifelong habit. I don't mean I'm never nice about people in my notebooks – I can be. But I notice what's odd about people, what's interesting, what's distinct, what they might not care to have noted. That's the game I play. It's known as observation. Goya did the same after all. I don't feel ashamed about it. No, I don't think I had any friends but they would as I say be shocked to know that I thought that. 

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: friends, Jews, solidarity, solitude, observation

Duration: 2 minutes, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014