Thursday, 19 August 2010

Robert Graves in Interview, 1965

The BBC is currently digitalising much of its vast archive. Amongst the treasures already dug up and put on display has been a number of interviews with modern English novelists, from Virginia Woolf and Aldous Huxley to Zadie Smith.

Most noteworthy for this blog's purposes is a discussion between Malcolm Muggeridge, at the top of his game, and Robert Graves, which you can see here. Graves is billed as 'the author of I, Claudius', but he takes just a few minutes to dismiss his fiction as the means to an end --- the end being to pay his bills. That is as comfortable as Graves gets; under Muggeridge's deceptively good-natured questioning, his body language betrays a growing unease. When he is asked about his 'homosexual phase', the reaction is excruciating.

Graves starts to discuss his experiences of the Great War, and their lasting effect on him, from about 15.30, announcing that the war was 'marvellous' and explaining why the rates of attrition among officers were so much higher than the lesser ranks endured. He also tells a fascinating story about how he avoided contributing to the prosecution of a 'deserter' who, Graves had been instructed in advance, 'had to be shot in order to support morale'.

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