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Michael Frayn

Michael Frayn Quotes

Quotes by and about Michael Frayn

(Continued from his main entry on the site.)

Frayn: "Everyone tries to suss out what's expected of them from other people and unless they are completely psychopathic they will attempt to present some compromise between the person they are expected to be and the person they think they are."

Frayn: "Every time I've ever arrived at an airport somewhere - and I'm sure I can't be the only person who's thought this - and seen a line of people holding up names, I've always thought, what would happen if you went up to someone holding up another name altogether and said, 'I'm so and so'. How far would you get? I haven't got the courage to do it myself but the nice thing about writing fiction is you've got a lot of assistants who are braver than I am."

Frayn: "[At Cambridge I started out studying French and Russian, but] I switched to philosophy because the language course consisted of a lot of academic work and a certain amount of literature. I enjoyed the language course very much but I was baffled by the literature, didn't have the faintest idea how to answer literary questions. In part two of the tripos it was all literature, and I couldn't face the prospect of spending two years writing essays about literary topics."

Frayn: "[Wittgenstein] died in 1951 and I arrived [at Cambridge] in 1954, but he had been a professor at Cambridge. He was one of the world's greatest philosophers but he was also a terrible human being, an appalling bully, who terrified everyone on the faculty, in the way that some scholars do. Almost everyone was in awe of him. I was passionately interested in Wittgenstein, and I had the great good fortune to be taught in my last year by almost the only person who was not. ... Jonathan Bennett loved arguing. He would not accept anything I said about Wittgenstein and I had to argue every step of the way. It was exhausting but a very good way of learning philosophy."

Frayn: "When I first started writing farces, interviewers would ask me, 'Why do you do farces? Why don't you write about life as it is?' and I couldn't understand what their lives must be like. I mean it seems to me that everyday life has a very strong tendency towards farce, that is to say, things go wrong. And they go wrong often in a very complex and logically constructed way - one disaster leads to another, and the combination of two disasters leads to a third disaster, which is the essence of classical farce: disaster building upon itself. It seems to me that the same thing happens in life, in my life anyway. I would like to live a life of classical dignity and write plays in blank verse or alexandrines."

Frayn: "Like anyone who is interested in science I was always interested in quantum mechanics, because it has so many bizarre philosophical implications."

Frayn: "Uncertainty is a very important part of life. Quantum theory makes it clear that you can't make any definite predictions about the behaviour of particles and the behaviour of particles is what makes up the universe. Everything in physics, or for that matter in biology, depends on this randomness at the heart of the universe. And it seems to be that one of the elements that you can't predict is human behaviour. ... People sometimes behave very rationally, but often they do things apparently out of nowhere."

[On why he chose to write a play speculating on what took place during the famously secretive meeting in 1942 between the physicists Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr:]
Frayn: "There was something about that meeting, and the difficulty in understanding why Heisenberg insisted on coming to see Bohr and what he wanted to say, which reflected both the uncertainty he introduced into physics and the difficulty of understanding why people do what they do. In both cases, it seems to me, there's a theoretical barrier beyond which we can't go - that however accurate the instruments are, they cannot know everything about the behaviour of anything, whether it's fast-moving particles or people's motivations."

The Independent: "Frayn's characters try to impose order and find meaning in the disorderly and chaotic."

Paris Review Magazine: "Frayn's deep intelligence, comic genius, and humane values have made him one of Britain's best-loved authors. Despite a certain aloofness, he is warm, generous, and always of impeccable courtesy."