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Meeting William Somerset Maugham


I'm going to be a published writer
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I went down to the South of France because that's where people wrote books: Somerset Maugham, Fitzgerald, Lawrence, that's the place to write books. So I checked in to a little hotel, and I started to write a novel. And I don't... as with 'Art is one of the four things that unite men' – as soon as I'd written the first paragraph, as if it was not me at all. It's a very important aspect of my being a writer, by the way, there's a lot of 'I' in what I say, but there's not a lot of 'I' in the work. I mean I could have, you know, I could fool some people, but it's still true: writers aren't themselves when they're writing, they're writers. And as I began to write this book which was about a popular... pop singer from Putney who becomes... who has a gift, he's a greengrocer's son and he has a gift for spontaneous songs. I don't know where I got it from, but it was a bit Footlights, it was a bit like, Take it From... not... was it? Was it Take it From Here, the thing that Muir and Norden wrote... Take it From Here! There was Ron and Eth, who were a sort of suburban pair. It was a very suburban, condescending piece about suburbia, but also of course it had Jock Jacobson and various people from show biz whom I had very quickly been able to mock. And it was funny, and as I wrote it I thought, 'It's... it's... it's, I'm going to be a published writer'. There was no question, I had no doubt at all. Written on plain paper. And I wrote to old Willie Maugham from my little hotel in Juan-les-Pins, and said could I come and see him? And he wrote back in his own hand and said, well, you may find it a bit difficult to get here, and you haven't dated your letter, so I don't know whether you're still there, but if you would care to come to tea on such-and-such a date, by all means do.

I should have learnt from that, that funnily enough, people are much more accessible than you imagine, partly because they are lonely, partly because they are flattered, partly because they are curious, etc. But they are.

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: Take it From Here, Jock Jacobsen, William Somerset Maugham

Duration: 2 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014