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The Benefits of Doubt

Frederic Raphael

Cover Picture of The Benefits of Doubt
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Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (224 pages)
(Pub. May 2003)
9781857546354
£14.95 £13.45
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  • 'To regard the human condition without excessive hope, but not to dispair of it, remains the sceptic's warily optimistic recipe. As someone once said, 'The man who has all the answers has not heard all the questions.' To be confident that one has more questions than answers is not the least of the benefits of doubt'. Frederic Raphael

    In Frederic Raphael's essays we meet familiar faces, known names, but the way he reintroduces them to us, with a ruthless clarity which seeks to conceal nothing, make us revalue them. Doubt is what keeps us from the tyranny of bien pensant sentimentalism, from accepting the nostrums of a journalised and televisualised culture.

    The first man we meet in The Benefit of Doubt is a tutelary spirit of Raphael's world, Primo Levi, a champion in the unequal fight between civilization and barbarism in which every thinking person is to some extent engaged. Other essays pursue Aristotle, Surrealism, Gore Vidal, cultural criticism, Heidegger, biography, the emperor Hadrian, translation, Arthur Koestler, the Jews, David Storey, the Greeks, Schnitzler, Tom Cruise, Disney and Kubrick amongst other subjects.

    On the Greeks...
    ...The Greeks had a long reputation for turning spitefully on those whom they earlier blessed with fame. Even Themistocles (a dodgy character before he became the hero of Salamis) ended his life working as a civil servant for the Persians whom he had defeated. Few good deeds went unpunished in a society riven by envy, toadyism, malice and libellous recklessness on the part, for durable example, of Aristophanes, who mocked and vilified the democracy which gave him, and others, the freedom to do so.'
               from Ancient and Modern

    On Gore Vidal...
    ...Gore Vidal's life illustrates that, in order for a writer to be famous, it is not enough to make friends who will speak well, and audibly, about him. He also needs reliable enemies with whom he can pick regular, newsworthy fights.'
               from A Career and Its Moves

    On movies and modern life
    ...The movie camera has had an incomparably more thorough, perhaps even more narcissistic, effect on human behaviour. Who drives home after a thriller without glancing in the mirror for the guys in the grey sedan? Lovers learned to kiss longer, once they saw how the stars did it. Now sex is a spectator sport which - who knows? - may soon have a World Cup. When footballers roll in agony, French commentators call it cinéma. Sincerity, honesty, wisdom are what look sincere, honest, wise. The Buddha got it right: appearances are reality, at twenty-four frames a second.
               from Why Write Movies

    Table of Contents

    Introduction



    If This Is a Man

    Primo Inter Pares

    The Stage and the Stagyrite

    Breton and His Slaves

    Why Write Movies?

    Judge Not?

    A Propos Arthur Koestler

    A Long Storey Long

    Notes Towards a Definition of Culturelessness

    Fossils and Their Fate

    A Career and Its Moves

    Sophia's Worlds

    Puff and Its Pastry

    There'll Always Be an English

    Better Even than the Book?

    Being Himself

    Bliss, Was It?

    A Story and Its Ghost

    Good Old Athens, Bad Old Rome?

    Any Relation of Alan?

    Ancient and Modern

    The Art of the Deal

    Berlin Revisited

    Introduction to Dream Fantasia

    Author, Auteur

    Language, Truth and Style

    French and English

    Some Talk of Alexandria

    Says Who?

    The Pumpkinification of Stanley K.

    The Benefits of Doubt



    Index

    Frederic Raphael was born in Chicago in 1931 and educated at Charterhouse and St John’s College, Cambridge. His novels include The Glittering Prizes (1976), A Double Life (1993), Coast to Coast (1998) and Fame and Fortune (2007); he has also written short stories and biographies of Somerset Maugham and Byron. Frederic ... read more
    Praise for Frederic Raphael 'A hilarious and disillusioned page-turner.'
    Peter Green, The TLS
     'Against the Stream offers many insights into Raphael's "double life". An American who made his career in Britain. A Jew who went to Charterhouse and Cambridge. A Hollywood script-doctor who read Ancient Greek for fun. Vain, sharp-tongued, but the sort of truth-teller Britain needed then and needs now.'
    David Herman, Standpoint

      'In these notebooks, Raphael shows himself alert to every vanity but his own, a shortcoming that, far from repelling a reader, becomes part and parcel of the their fascination. He is one of those writers who most reveals himself in his acerbic anatomy of others.'
    Anthony Quinn, Telegraph
       'Aphoristic, lapidary and sumptuously reflective by turns, Personal Terms is a joy to read both for Raphael's prose and mental powers. It is a book of iridescent intelligence, seductive charm, urbane temper and unflagging delight - indeed a minor masterpiece.'
    Times Literary Supplement

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