WM – Notes

Fowles, John. The Journals, Volume One: 1949-1965. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2003.

“Long talk with Wolf Mankowitz in the Ellenborough after the lecture he gave. Freddy Raphael was there, bubbling his ideas out. FR is like a sort of young Isaiah Berlin, a powerhouse of ideas and opinions that come rushing out. Very quick to burke, to take umbrage in a brisk intellectual-Jew’s way. Mankowitz is really rather a pathetic creature underneath all the curt disparagements, the sour-sweet wit, the professional selling of himself as a success.[1] A Roman character who has to have his tongue tickled by a feather (his weaknesses revealed in such sessions-we sat around till 3 a.m. in the brown leather armchairs of the morgue-like hotel) in order to go on being a success. I said his life seemed so rich (in the bad sense of ‘rich’ food) that I couldn’t understand how he managed to live. Then he began to spew out gobbets of regret. How he hadn’t written a single thing he really liked, was always doing jobs for the sake of the job. I have six islands, he said (to or three real ones and two or three house in which he walls himself). ‘And you hate bridges,’ I said. ‘And I hate bridges, God how I hate bridges.’ He and FR (a ten times more intelligent person) both share this strange sublimation of the successful Jewish writer – a love of names, of being ‘in’ in the London literary and film world, of getting the best figures and having the best agents; a love of ‘credits’ in the film sense of that word. They both said that they were continually insecure, they don’t trust anyone. I said (this is what I feel about the Americans as well, in a way), ‘But it’s wonderful to be a Jewish intellectual, you’re free, you belong nowhere.’ They like to feel rootless, of course, because Jews want always to be pitied. Later Nathaniel Tarn the poet (also a European cocktail Jews) said, ‘This is the century of the Negro, the Jew and the Asiatic.’ I feel this.  Of the rootless, the dispossessed.”

[1] Wolf Mankowitz (1924-98) had made a reputation for himself as a novelist, journalist and playwright but also as a much sought after screenwriter.


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