Michael Frayn

Michael Frayn is a playwright and novelist.

I learnt a surprising amount at university (Cambridge) that turned out to be of practical use in life. I suppose most of it came from my teachers, and the books they encouraged me to read. The French and Russian they taught me have been a great professional standby – and my life was changed and shaped by the philosophy that I went on to study. I’m particularly grateful to Jonathan Bennett, my philosophy supervisor in my last year, who loved to argue, and who has remained a friend and mentor ever since.

But I also learnt a lot from my fellow-students. This is one of the uncovenanted benefits of a university – it’s full of people like oneself who are brimming over with what they have discovered, often about subjects remote from one’s own, and who want to talk about it. I had a lot of friends reading English, of course, (which seemed a wonderfully exotic subject to me) but also surprisingly many, for some reason, who gave me my first glimpses into architecture and anthropology. There were others who did the same with (among many other things) physics and psychology, Arthurian legend, pre-Baroque music, the history of classical Rome and the Italian Renaissance. There were also plenty of gaps and spaces in the formal structure of university life where all this could happen, and for me the chance to make some early experiments with the journalism and stories that were going to constitute my future career.

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