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In 1951, when he was twenty, the novelist, screen-writer and homme-de-lettres-to-be Frederic Raphael bought a spiral-bound notebook from Joseph Gibert in the Boulevard St Michel and started keeping a curious kind of writer's journal. His purpose was 'to catch ideas and incidents on the wing' and 'to train myself to notice things as they were'. He continues this practice today, though the word 'things' has come to embrace more or less everything that matters in the writer's world. These notebooks are at once a detailed Biographia Literaria and a creative resource, not only for him but for other writers and readers.
Raphael includes reflections, sketches for stories and other projects, vignettes of people and places. Some entries are pages long, some are pithy aphorisms, all in one way or another illuminating the vocation of writer and the equally urgent and vital vocation of reader. A writer's chief tools are watching, listening, guessing, keeping an open mind, reading the present and rereading the past to keep contact and faith with the works which until recent times constituted the imagination and critical discourse of our cultural
Personal Terms is a generous collation from Raphael's notebooks, beginning (as Alice advises) at the beginning, and continuing the intermittent story up to 1969, that year of political crisis and disillusion. By then the eighteen-year-old boy in the Bou' Mich had become the author of eight novels and much else for the page and screen. He still visited (as he does today) Gibert's shop to acquire his enabling notebooks.