after taking a novel through eight drafts in almost as many years it is a great relief to have it published. The first real indication that its spell has been broken is when the six presentation copies arrive. You put them on a shelf and stand back to enjoy the view they make: the sensation is similar to that of throwing soil on the coffin of someone who has been only half a friend: he imposed on you a bit too much, though you couldn’t help liking him for it in a grudging sort of way. “Well,” you say, “that’s over: now for something new.”
When I heard that Saturday Night And Sunday Morning was to be made into a film, and that I was going to be asked to write the script, I felt I was in for a tough exercise in resurrection. Nevertheless I agreed to it, mainly because I wanted a hand in the kind of film it was going to be. I didn’t want Arthur Seaton—the main character—getting transmogrified into a young workman who turns out to be an honest-to-goodness British individualist—that is, one who triumphs in the end against and at the expense of a communist agitator or the trade unions. I didn’t want him to become a tough stereotype with, after all, a heart of moral gold which has in it a love of the monarchy and all that oldfashioned muck.
Not that I imagined Woodfall Productions wanting to tamper in any way with what “ideological content” the story possessed. In any case Karel Reisz was to direct the film, and I knew, after seeing his We Are The Lambeth Boys that there was no danger of any of this twisting. In the novel, I’d wanted to show certain people as I thought them to be, not as I imagined other people wanted to see them. I had taken too long learning how to write to fall for that line.
I found it very difficult to call back the mood in which I had written Saturday Night And Sunday Morning. It was almost impossible at first even to re-read the book, and this had to be done many times before the story fell into its 30 or 40 component parts and I could re-arrange the pieces into the tighter form of a film script. Many scenes from the book had to be dropped—since time was restricted to about 90 minutes and not 300. One or two short scenes were added in order to give filmic sense, and before this line of clear and simple progression came, the story had to be put through five drafts of synopsis and five of actual fulllength script. Owing to uncertainty as to when the shooting would begin, I found myself occupied with the script for nearly a year—and the gaps in between weren’t long enough for me to do much else but poems and short work. There were times, with another novel breathing over my shoulder, when I wished for a quick end to it, and even that I hadn’t started it. I also felt, and still feel strongly, that I don’t work at my best when collaborating with other people.
Never having written a film script before, I had to have some help from Karel Reisz. Maybe the reason why the script went through so many drafts was because neither of us had been engaged on a feature film up to that time. The greatest difficulty was to simplify, to re-mould the episodic novel into some sort of order; and also to decide what to leave out.