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Living on a shoestring in Spain


How I became the most famous man in London
Frederic Raphael Writer
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Anyway, I wrote to Bernard Levin and said: you think there isn't any anti-Semitism, you know, I would like to show you the evidence that you are completely wrong. I don't care, I don't want you to do anything or you may not want to do anything, but you're wrong. So – we were living up in Highgate in this flat which we were evicted from in effect – so he said, would you… perhaps you'd like to bring it to The Spectator office. So, I went down to The Spectator office, which was then in Gower Street. I'd published a couple of books, I'd done the Footlights. I was a little unknown, sort of not entirely ignominious person, well, quite a tall one, actually. So I went in and I was made to wait in the usual way and eventually this small Jewy Jew came out with the specs and the curly hair and all the sort of things that Julius Streicher didn't like and he said, 'What... what do you do?' And I said, 'Well, I've published a book or two'. 'Well, what is this stuff?' So I gave it to him and by the time we got down to Fuengirola, he had become quite excited about it and he published a lot of the stuff in The Spectator in his column, and he contacted a number of people and he wrote to me and said that Lord Rothschild was interested and there were going to be changes and we would see. But of course what we saw, in the end, was absolutely nothing. What we also saw was that journalists are interested, excited and eager advocates for 10 or 20 minutes and then, unless there is cheering in the streets and bonuses from the boss, their interest lapses.

Bernard did write to me. We became, sort of, friends. And, incidentally, years later, not 20 but about 17 or 18 years later, I wrote a television series called The Glittering Prizes which created quite a storm at the time. And I went… I was then invited to parties again which I had not been invited to for a season or two, because we were back in London by then. And, Bernard came up to me and said, 'What does it feel like to be the most famous man in London?' To which I'm glad to say I replied, 'I was just going to ask you, Bernard'. It was quite a nice little revenge. He meant no harm. The strange thing about Bernard was that he destroyed all of his correspondence at the end of every year. He sort of didn't want to be weighted down with the boxes, I suppose, of stuff. And, in the end, very bravely, when he was dying of Alzheimer's, or he contracted Alzheimer's and he lost his memory... So, in fact, of course, in a strange kind of way he destroyed what his brain itself destroyed later. One can smile or not smile, and one can admire the mysterious ways of God, but that's what happened.

So, we got down to Spain…

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 Spectator, The Glittering Prizes, Bernard Levin, memory

Duration: 2 minutes, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014