hen Clive James, who is 75 and in poor health, says “the end is nigh, but not that nigh”, he’s defying gravity, as usual. It’s something he’s got rather good at lately.
bout two years ago, prematurely, the world’s media gave James the last rites: with valedictory interviews, hushed bulletins, sombre satellite appearances, and Australian TV anchors flying to his doorstep. “My obituaries were so fabulous,” he twinkles in an opening gambit, “I felt more or less obliged to walk the plank.” In a spooky echo of his own last chatshow, it seemed as if he had become “the late Clive James”.
That was a dark season for a writer who instinctively prefers to shine. When we met in 2013, he was living in a kind of internal exile, from family, from wellbeing, and even from his beloved mother country. Darkest of all, he was putting the finishing touches to a translation of The Divine Comedy while suffering a fate that Dante might plausibly have inflicted on a recent admission to one of hell’s training circles: leukaemia, emphysema, and a mixed bag of carcinomas. TheGuardian.com