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Adventures in the Maghreb


A sense of belonging in Spain
Frederic Raphael Writer
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So we did that and we looked at the Goyas at Illescas, a little dwarf nun held up a lamp as we looked at these El Grecos like that. Then we drove on through Aranjuez and across La Mancha down to Ubeda and then to Cordoba. And my notebook began to be very full of details about all of these things and I've been looking at it recently, and to be perfectly honest, I could see that the Reverend Harper-Wood had actually effected an extraordinary change in my work, because somehow or other the combination of the money I'd been given, the opportunity I'd been given, solitude and the fact that I actually now was confident I was going to be a published writer, quite abruptly I stopped being the rather gauche taker of notes which I had been all the time at Cambridge and became pretty good at it. Pretty damn good at it. By which I mean, looking at it now I think, hmm.

I went from Spain down to Cordoba, then... I loved Cordoba. I read... Ken Tynan wrote something very disobliging about... no, it wasn't Ken Tynan! Trevor Roper wrote something very disobliging I read recently about Cordoba. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I thought the Mezquita was absolutely marvellous, this Moorish, enormous Moorish mosque, in the middle of which Charles V had imposed a Christian church at the same time as saying, we mustn't desecrate the Moorish site. He actually desecrated everything Charles V, but he always thought he was doing the right thing.

Anyway, went to Cordoba and then we went to Granada and I felt that I somehow belonged in Spain. It went all the way back to that Spanish-Portuguese synagogue on the corner of Central Park West and I somehow felt at home in Spain and I bought a Spanish grammar and I sat down to teach myself Spanish. I always do it with a grammar, very sort of – I don't do linguaphones, I've done linguaphones, but basically I learn languages like they were prep, that's the way it is, quite a good way, too. Anyway. I learned some Spanish. We got to Granada and Granada was amazing, wonderful, whatever appropriate or inappropriate words you care to apply to it. I liked it a lot.

And I tried to get some more money. St John's College had given me 75 quid and they were going to send me more when I needed it. So I applied for some more to come to the Banco Central and I said that my name was Raphael Frederic. Frederic Raphael. I said, will you please tell me when the money comes in. So the Oppenheims stayed for a bit and then eventually they decided they were going to drive on and I... I wasn't all that sorry that, that they were going to leave me because I had become kind of adjunct of theirs, and I didn't think that was quite right even though I enjoyed having company. So they eventually drove away and left me alone in Granada. And I had a ticket to the Alhambra which enabled me to go there at night and I went, moonlit and tried to read Shakespeare by moonlight and I thought bollocks, Shakespeare by moonlight. It's cold and silly and I can't read the words.

And I kept going back to the Banco Central and they didn't have the money and I began to get quite anxious. And eventually I said to the guy, what are you looking up when you look up whether it's come? And he said, 'Your name is Frederic. Raphael Frederic'. And I said, would you look up under Raphael? And of course the money had been there a long time. He assumed that Raphael was my first name so he thought my last name was Frederic. So I got me money. So I had a last look at the Dutch paintings in the Capilla Royale, which astonishingly they've got very nice Dutch painting in there, I don't know how they got there. I had been to see the Gypsies on the Sacro Monte with the Oppenheims, it was fantastic. The thing about flamenco was, they always tell you in Spain, they told me then, they told people in the time of Washington Irving and they're still telling them that of course there's no real flamenco any more.

Actually, there never was any real flamenco I discovered, because young singers can't sing flamenco because they don't have the soul, and when you're old enough to have a soul your voice is gone. So actually nobody has ever sung flamenco. So I went down to Algeciras on the bus, went to Malaga then to Algeciras and then I caught the ferry over to Morocco.

I went to Tangiers which in those days was an enclave, a sort of internationally run enclave with British police boxes and... pillar boxes and I think British policemen, I can't remember, anyway, it was also, of course, an international homosexual kind of haven because you could do those thing in Tangiers which you could not do in South Kensington. Not that I had any inclination to do them.

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: Cordoba, Granada, Alhambra, Tangiers

Duration: 5 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014