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This interview is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

In Conversation with Frederic Raphael William Boyd
Literature

WILLIAM BOYD: When someone asks you, 'What do you do?' do you reply 'Novelist', or 'Writer', or 'Novelist and screenwriter'? Or something else?

FREDERIC RAPHAEL: I never answer 'screenwriter'. What is vital to me is the capacity to work alone and without having to apply for a licence. Robert Graves (who went to Charterhouse and disliked it almost as much as I did) wrote a book called Occupation: Writer, which will, as they say, do me.

Is there a favourite novel amongst your work? (I'm always asked this question).

I don't spend much time in narcissistic retrospection. I am rather proud of Like Men Betrayed (1970), which Paul Theroux described as 'Proust with machine-guns' (I am almost happy to recall that it also occasioned a reviewer in The Times to say that I had no sense of humour).Like Men Betrayed is manifestly 'about' Greece although it never uses the word 'Greek', or 'Hellene'. I especially like my own absence from it in any camouflaged form. Then again Lindmann, which is 'about' the Shoah, does not contain the word 'Jew'. I favour indirection, when possible, but I like to be going somewhere.

You're acclaimed for your dialogue but I've always thought your expository and descriptive prose is really exceptionally and beautifully well-written. Do you work hard at your style?

My father was a ballroom dancing champion. When he danced the tango, ...


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