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Frederic (Michael) Raphael Biography

Frederic Raphael comments:

Nationality: American. Born: Chicago, Illinois, 1931. Education: Charterhouse School, Godalming, Surrey; St. John's College, Cambridge, 1950-54 (Major Classics Scholar, 1950; Harper Wood Studentship, 1954), M.A. (honours) 1954. Career: Since 1962 contributor, and fiction critic, 1962-65, Sunday Times, London. Awards: British Screen Writers award, 1965, 1966, 1967; British Academy award, 1965; Oscar, for screenplay, 1966; Royal Television Society Writer of the Year award, 1976; Ace Award, Best Film for Cable TV, 1990. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature, 1964. Agent: Sanford Gross Agency, 1015 Gayley Avenue, Suite 301, Los Angeles, California 90024-3424, U.S.A.



Obbligato. London, Macmillan, 1956.

The Earlsdon Way. London, Cassell, 1958.

The Limits of Love. London, Cassell, 1960; Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1961.

A Wild Surmise. London, Cassell, 1961; Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1962.

The Graduate Wife. London, Cassell, 1962.

The Trouble with England. London, Cassell, 1962.

Lindmann. London, Cassell, 1963; New York, Holt Rinehart, 1964.

Darling. London, Fontana, and New York, New American Library, 1965.

Orchestra and Beginners. London, Cape, 1967; New York, VikingPress, 1968.

Like Men Betrayed. London, Cape, 1970; New York, Viking Press, 1971.

Who Were You with Last Night? London, Cape, 1971.

April, June and November. London, Cape, 1972; Indianapolis, BobbsMerrill, 1976.

Richard's Things. London, Cape, 1973; Indianapolis, Bobbs Merrill, 1975.

California Time. London, Cape, 1975; New York, Holt Rinehart, 1976.

The Glittering Prizes. London, Allen Lane, 1976; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1978.

Heaven and Earth. London, Cape, and New York, Beaufort, 1985.

After the War. London, Collins, 1988; New York, Viking, 1989.

The Hidden I: A Myth Revised. London and New York, Thames andHudson, 1990.

A Double Life. London, Orion, 1993.

Old Scores. London, Orion, 1995.

The Necessity of Anti-Semitism. New York, St. Martin's Press, 1998.

Coast To Coast. North Haven, Connecticut, Catbird Press, 1999.

Short Stories

Sleeps Six. London, Cape, 1979.

Oxbridge Blues and Other Stories. London, Cape, 1980; Fayetteville, University of Arkansas Press, 1984.

Oxbridge Blues (includes Sleeps Six and Oxbridge Blues and Other Stories). London, Penguin, 1984.

Think of England. London, Cape, 1986; New York, Scribner, 1988.

The Latin Lover. London, Orion, 1994.


Lady at the Wheel, with Lucienne Hill, music and lyrics by LeslieBricusse and Robin Beaumont (produced London, 1958).

A Man on the Bridge (produced Hornchurch, Essex, 1961).

The Island (for children), in Eight Plays 2, edited by Malcolm StuartFellows. London, Cassell, 1965.

Two for the Road (screenplay). London, Cape, and New York, HoltRinehart, 1967.

An Early Life (produced Leicester, 1979).

The Serpent Son: Aeschylus: Oresteia, with Kenneth McLeish (televised 1979). London, Cambridge University Press, 1979.

From the Greek (produced Cambridge, 1979).


Bachelor of Hearts, with Leslie Bricusse, 1958; Nothing But the Best, 1963; Darling, 1965; Two for the Road, 1967; Far from the Maddening Crowd, 1967; A Severed Head, 1970; Don't Bother to Knock (Why Bother to Knock), with Denis Cannan and Frederic Gotfurt, 1971; Daisy Miller, 1974; Richard's Things, 1981; The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt, 1990; Eyes Wide Shut (with Stanley Kubrick; based on a novel by Arthur Schnitzler). New York, Warner Books, 1999.

Radio Writing:

The Daedalus Dimension, 1979; Death in Trieste, 1981; The Thought of Lydia, 1988; The Empty Jew, 1994.

Television Plays:

The Executioners, 1961; Image of a Society, from the novel by Roy Fuller, 1963; The Trouble with England, from his own novel, 1964; The Glittering Prizes, 1976; Rogue Male, from the novel by Geoffrey Household, 1976; Something's Wrong, 1978; The Serpent Son, with Kenneth McLeish, 1979; Of Mycenae and Men, with Kenneth McLeish, 1979; School Play, 1979; The Best of Friends, 1980; Byron: A Personal Tour (documentary, also narrator), 1981; Oxbridge Blues, 1984; After the War series, 1989.


W. Somerset Maugham and His World. London, Thames and Hudson, and New York, Scribner, 1977; revised edition, Sphere, 1989.

Cracks in the Ice: Views and Reviews. London, W.H. Allen, 1979.

A List of Books: An Imaginary Library, with Kenneth McLeish. London, Mitchell Beazley, and New York, Harmony, 1981.

Byron. London, Thames and Hudson, 1982.

Of Gods and Men, with illustrations by Sarah Raphael. London, FolioSociety, 1992.

France: The Four Seasons, with photographs by Michael Busselle. London, Pavilion, 1994.

Popper. New York, Routledge, 1999.

Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick. New York, BallantineBooks, 1999.

Editor, Bookmarks. London, Cape, 1975.

Translator, with Kenneth McLeish, The Poems of Catullus. London, Cape, 1978; Boston, Godine, 1979.

Translator, with Kenneth McLeish, The Complete Plays of Aeschylus. London, Methuen, 1991.

Translator, with Kenneth McLeish, Medea, by Euripides. London, Hern, 1994.


Critical Study:

"The Varied Universe of Frederic Raphael" by Frederick P.W. McDowell in Critique (Minneapolis), Fall 1965.

Theatrical Activities:

Director: TelevisionSomething's Wrong, 1978; He'll See You Now, 1984; Film— The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt, 1990.

Although in many ways I am the most marginal of Jews (I am agnostic in religion and wary of communities), I suppose it is honest to say that I would not be a novelist if it were not for the singular experiences of the Jewish people and for my sense of being, if not a direct participant, at least a witness, of them. My themes, if I have themes, are scarcely Jewish since I lack intimate knowledge of the practices and habits of those who live in so-called Jewish society. When I do come in contact with them I do not necessarily find them congenial. Yet, the Final Solution—its vulgarity no less than its brutality, its greedy malice no less than its murderous factories—lies always at the back of my mind even if I myself, as a child growing up in England, suffered nothing more than its bad breath blowing in my face from across the Channel. It may be an indulgence for anyone who did not have closer experience to claim personal acquaintance with the holocaust; it is equally frivolous to ignore it. It is too convenient a conclusion to dispose of the Jewish experience under the Germans (and the Austrians and the Poles and the Hungarians and the Ukrainians and the Russians, and the English and the Americans) as a sort of freakish explosion, a San Francisco earthquake of an event, a once-and-for-all catastrophe after which, in the comforter's cliché, one has to "go on living." And yet, of course, one does.

For me, the novelist is, above all, the historian of conscience. How does the individual conscience—in other words, how do I—go on living in a world which gives the clearest possible testimony of the cruelty and indifference of man? How does one continue to worry about the nuances of personal life, about love, friendship, taste, and responsibility when all the signs are that man is essentially rapacious, vindictive, and stupid? I have no answers to these questions, nor do I pretend they are in themselves new; they have been asked often enough and yet one does live at a particular time and, despite all the elegant suggestions to the contrary, it seems to me that our time is still linear. Certain things are beyond change, others lie ahead.

The problem is, in a sense, of language. Only in language is it possible to assimilate horrors and yet to achieve something which is both clear and, in a sense, pure. The way in which man remembers meaningfully is by not refusing sense in his language to those things which most profoundly influence or instruct him. This might be an argument for writing either history or philosophy and in a way I tried to do this, but I am not an historian or a philosopher. An obsession with a particular instance of the human character and a desire no less than a tendency—to show the futility of generalisation in the face of the fatuous and magnanimous individuality of human beings, lead me to examine the world through dramatic and emotional states rather than through a study of documents or the analysis of trends. Beyond and through the tragic comes the comic—the comic which does not explode the tragic but defines it—and this interpenetration is only one example of the sort of ambiguities in which the novelist finds himself at home. These ambiguities reveal themselves in drama and I have always found that, in spite of the attractions of both the theatre and the cinema, the drama can be worked out at its most personal and in the most piercing fashion in fiction. Truth may be stranger than fiction but fiction is truer.

How loftily one speaks in such generalising terms as these. The actual impulses which start a book are, of course, less grand. They spring as much from a sense of one's own contradictions as from any perception of human inadequacy or follies. When one begins to speak in the first person it sounds like conceit but it is more often confession, at least at my age. I am conscious above all of being equipped to be a novelist because it is only in a multiplicity of characters that I can reconcile my own ragbag personality. When people speak of a crisis of identity, I remind them that we know very well who we are, where we are having dinner and with whom we are sleeping, yet when I consider myself I am less commonsensical.

I was born in Chicago of a British father and an American mother. Beyond them, my grandparents and great-grandparents branched off across the world like an airline network. I was educated at Charterhouse which, I am told, is a great English Public School, and at Cambridge. I was readily influenced both by the ethos of the English middle class and by the intellectual habits of a classical education. Although I now regret much of what I was told and some of what I learned, I cannot shrug off the influence of these places, nor am I certain that I would wish to do so. The conflict of values reveals itself in fiction in the conflict of characters. I am conscious of being foreign in England and I find myself at home to some extent in many other places, yet I cannot sever myself entirely from the country where I live or from the language in which I write. I am sickened by xenophobia and yet in many ways I fear what lies beyond me. I believe that reason is better than unreason and that intelligence is better than instinct but I have not always been impressed by the decency of those who are most intelligent or by the capacity for affection and love of those who are most reasonable.

Within the nooks and crannies of the great edifices of generalisation and judgement, the innocently guilty and the guiltily innocent scurry about carrying nuts to their families, seeking their pleasures, snapping at their enemies, and providing, for those who have eyes to see, the proof of the impossibility of final solutions to the human condition.

* * *

Frederic Raphael began with a slight novel, Obbligato, a satiric and mock-heroic account of the rise to fame of an improvising pop-singer. Literary merit is abundant, however, in Raphael's second book, The Earlsdon Way, a realistic novel about the futility of British suburban life and the ineffectual revolt against its mores undertaken by Edward Keggin and his daughter Karen.

The Limits of Love gained for Raphael wide and deserved recognition. Its protagonist, Paul Riesman, is a Jew divorced by his training and inclinations from his race. Because he will not recognize what is necessity for him, his Jewishness, he becomes a selfish, life-destroying man despite his continuing efforts to achieve identity. But Paul increasingly sees that love is a defeating force if it is limited to the personal sphere and if it rejects the community; and he finds in his mother-in-law, Hannah Adler, stability that he lacks and in her daughter Julia, his wife, flexibility and depth.

In A Wild Surmise Raphael used a technique of montage to reveal his protagonist, Robert Carn, gradually. Carn hopes to escape British conventions in San Roque and to find genuine value through the spontaneous, impassioned, disinterested self. Ultimately, he supplements his introspective endeavors with a commitment to others in his efforts, ostensibly unsuccessful, to save some Indians from being poisoned. The novel is powerful and evocative, especially as it charts the processes of Carn's mind and the subtleties of his psychic life.

Raphael has written a number of brief novels, ironically executed, which concentrate upon a moral problem and its significance for the chief characters. The Trouble with England develops the moral contrasts between two vacationing couples on the French Riviera; The Graduate Wife focuses upon the forward development of a priggish heroine to inner stability. Who Were You with Last Night? has, as first-person narrator, the disenchanted Charles Hanson, who is amusing as he deflates bourgeois values (sometimes his own), recounts his satisfactions and frustrations with wife and mistress, and analyzes the delicate balance existing between love and hate in intimate relationships. Richard's Things is a tour de force, suggesting the impermanence not only of the marital relationship but of life itself, as the piquant relationship between the wife of the now dead Richard and his mistress diminishes from its first ardor to something near hatred. The Glittering Prizes reveals Raphael's remarkable technical expertise and depth of emotional insight as he traces the unfolding lives after their graduation, of a group of Cambridge contemporaries. The chief of these, Adam Morris, is a novelist similar in temperament to Raphael himself. He is an ironically minded but aesthetically talented Jew whose temporary foray into the world of the mass media is engaging farce, meant also to define the difficulties that the serious artist encounters in holding fast to his genuine impulses.

The peak of Raphael's achievement in writing the experimental novel is Lindmann. A British civil servant, James Shepherd, connived in 1942 to prevent the SS Broda from landing in Turkey with its Jewish refugees. Shepherd, to expiate his guilt and to achieve selfdefinition, assumes the identity of Jacob Lindmann, one of the two survivors from the ship who later died from exposure. A certain chastity gives Shepherd as Lindmann his moral force, since he forgoes any kind of fulfillment for himself; and he is, by his spiritual tenacity, something more than the failure he judges himself to be. Through patience and love he tries to influence others to a course of moderation, toleration, consideration, and affection.

Orchestra and Beginners, Like Men Betrayed, April, June, and November, and California Time are also works of considerable scope. In Orchestra and Beginners Raphael analyzes the ineffectual decency and the effete decay which characterized British upper-middle-class society just prior to World War II. Linda Strauss suffers from the moral paralysis of the class into which as an American she has married but is sympathetically seen, even if she fails her husband at his military enlistment because of her intensely personal reactions to experience. Leonard, in turn, is too impersonal toward Linda. Paradoxically, Linda's passion and Leonard's critical intelligence are both needed in confronting the complexities of modern life.

Like Men Betrayed is about Greek and, by implication, English politics, and it is remarkable for penetrating the relationships between the individual's psyche and social institutions. Three main points in time contrapuntally organize the book: the Greece of the 1930s under the Marshal's moderate dictatorship; Greece during World War II when factional jealousies are only less intense than hatred for the Italians and Germans; and postwar Greece when a power struggle develops between the corrupt royalist regime and the leftist insurgents. Artemis Theodoros defects from the Royalists when government troops fail in World War II to support the leftist General Papavastrou against the Germans. The novel is subtle and complex as it traces Artemis's endeavors to reach spiritual and political truth. As the novel opens he is fleeing north to the frontier where supposedly his forces will reach asylum. Instead, he learns that they will be betrayed. He remains faithful to his inner standards, however, despite misunderstanding, violence, betrayal, imprisonment, and exile. In Artemis a deplorable waste of genius occurs. The integrity inherent in such a heroic man, however, is the resource which we will have to learn how to use to insure a revitalized polity, Raphael would seem to be saying.

April, June, and November, California Time, and Heaven and Earth are also novels about talented men whose creative energies are deflected either by weakness of will or by circumstances. In April, June, and November the liberal and magnetic Daniel Meyer is, in fact, capable of a heroism which he can never display to any purpose in his hedonistic, effete milieu. The football field rather than the political arena claims his intelligence and genius. In California Time Victor England is likewise a victim, but could he have ever achieved distinction in the cutthroat and standardless world of the motion pictures studios, a world which needs his creativity but which also humiliates him to the greatest possible extent? Raphael is frankly experimental in this novel, collapsing all of Victor's experience into the ongoing present and creating doubts in him as to the reality of his perceptions of the given moment, in a milieu in which the reality and the hallucination become barely distinguishable. In Heaven and Earth Gideon Shand is a good man whose happiness, prosperity, and integrity seem unassailable. Underneath, the irrational forces in himself and others lead, unexpectedly to him (and to the reader), to destruction and self-destruction. Life is at once tougher and more fragile than he had at first realized; and the implicit question raised in this novel, but not decisively answered, is whether a man like Gideon can survive the violent effects of these unconscious forces. In these three novels Raphael develops the tragedy of the man who cannot actualize his good intentions and give free expression to his genius, with the same density, elusiveness, and complication that characterize his fiction as a whole.

Frederick P.W. McDowell

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