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Working against all odds


In the clouds of hydrogen sulphide
Jonathan Miller Theatre director
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I can still remember this... this lordly review from Kingsley, who was really just simply a pendant, in many ways, of Private Eye. But these things, these wounds remain and they actually... because they add up, and because they add up not only in one's own imagination, they add up in one's imagination because they represent in some strange way the atmosphere and the climate of opinion which one finds oneself in. And over the years I keep on... have kept on feeling why on earth did I leave something which was, where in fact one could be right or wrong in science, rather than being the subject of largely invertebrate opinion?
[Q] Do friends of yours ask you… I mean, don’t they say, ‘Can’t you rise above all this?’ and...

No, you can’t rise above it.

[Q] ... particularly, as you said, you know, there were things that were regarded as classics. You knew they were good at the time and know they’re seen as good now. Is there no way you can deal with this wound, as it were?

No, because what happens is that you live most of your life in the media, because that’s where you do it.  You do it in what is called the media, and the media are in fact filled with hydrogen sulphide.  And so if you’ve been breathing the hydrogen sulphide which is secreted all around you apropos of the things you work, there’s no way in which I can rise above an atmosphere. You simply are sunk in a slightly unpleasant smell of hydrogen sulphide.

Jonathan Miller (1934-2019) was a British theatre and opera director. Initially studying medicine at Cambridge, Sir Jonathan Miller came to prominence with the production of the British comedy revue, Beyond the Fringe. Following on from this success he embarked on a career in the theatre, directing a 1970 West End production of The Merchant of Venice starring Laurence Olivier. He also started directing opera, famously producing a modern, Mafia-themed version of Rigoletto.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Kingsley Amis

Duration: 2 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008