‘Brilliant, complex, contradictory, beautifully observed, deeply insightful, but sometimes also romantic and naïve. And, of course, boundary-crossing.’ Thus Kenan Malik writes in commemoration of the 50th birthday of C.L.R. James’ classic Beyond a Boundary (1963) which I cannot help but reblog—a fine and worthy tribute. ‘It was a book CLR had to write’, says Selma James (CLR’s widow) in the Guardian back in April. ‘He understood the game, he believed, in ways most experts did not and could not. He considered himself more scrupulous about the game’s technique and how it grappled with team dynamics, skills, players’ concentration and the psychological war between batsman and bowler, batsman and fielders. And he saw the game not only as it was played but as it was lived—and for West Indians that meant first of all a colonial society stratified by race and class. His unblinking description of the shades of status among cricket clubs cuts like glass. . . . Establishing early the interconnection between cricket and race and class divisions’, she continues, ‘opens the way for Beyond a Boundary to fulfil its author’s full purpose: to draw out other startling connections—cricket and art, life in ancient Greece, even rewriting English social history with cricket’s great WG Grace as a crucial figure. As startling as his connections is the light he sheds on each—not only cricket but every subject benefits from shattering boundaries. We are invited to reject the fragmenting of reality, and to see its diverse interconnections without which we are prevented from ever knowing anything fully—including our own reality.’
Included at the end of Kenan Malik’s post is a wonderful little BBC film (60 mins) on CLR James which a lovely piece of portraiture
This year marks the 50th anniversary of CLR James’ wonderful, groundbreaking work Beyond a Boundary. To call it a book about cricket is a bit like calling cricket a ‘game’. Beyond a Boundary blends politics and memoir, history and journalism, biography and reportage, in a manner that transcends literary, sporting and political boundaries. V S Naipaul, not a man given to offering easy praise, described it as ‘one of the finest and most finished books to come out of the West Indies’. John Arlott, that most wonderful of cricket commentators, wrote of Beyond a Boundary, that it was ‘a book so outstanding as to compel any reviewer to check his adjectives several times before he describes it and, since he is likely to be dealing in superlatives, to measure them carefully to avoid over-praise – which this book does not need’.
Beyond a Boundary was a…
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