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London makes a poor first impression

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Early boyhood in the Depression
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I went to a school, my first school in New York, which was called Ethical Culture. Quite a famous school founded by Liberal, as they were called, Jews, mostly German Jews. German Jews incidentally in New York were... the peak of their social circle and in fact there's an ugly word, 'kike', which Americans have used, and they still use for all I know, of certain kinds of Jews or indeed of all Jews. But the truth of the matter is that the German Jews whose names did not end in ski used the term 'kike' and devised it to describe peoples whose names, i.e. Poles and other lesser folk of that kind, Eastern Europeans, ended in ski and hence they were 'kikes'. Not particularly nice, but that's the way that the Jews can be. 

So I went to Ethical Culture which was liberal and sought, without any sort of shame or doubt, to make assimilated Jews, that is to say good Americans, out of Jews. And I was quite good at school. Not that there was very much labour involved because it was kind of free and I had a teacher called Miss Henry and she thought well of me and I had a number of nannies, some black, some Irish. I don't know what my mother did because I was an only child, quite common in the slump, in the Depression. My mother went to classes, I think, and went shopping at Saks and I Miller and all the usual places in Fifth Avenue. We didn't have much money and she never had any... she never had a bank account all her life while my father was alive, but she did have checking accounts as they used to call them. And she was frugal and very good at sales and smart, and smart in every sense, that is to say that she always looked very good. I was always proud of my mother. 

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: Ethical Culture, New York

Duration: 1 minute, 58 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014