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27.11.2019 Europe

Australian broadcaster Clive James dies after long struggle with cancer

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
RICHARD LEWIS / AP WPA ROTA POOL / AFP
NOV 27, 2019 EUROPE
RICHARD LEWIS / AP WPA ROTA POOL / AFP

Clive James, the Australian writer and broadcaster known around the world for his dry wit, has died at the age of 80. Diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010, he used his experiences as a terminally ill patient in a series of hilarious newspaper articles and continued working almost until his death.

James died on Sunday "peacefully and at home, surrounded by his family and his books" in Cambridge, England, his agents said in a statement.

A private funeral attended by family and close friends took place on Wednesday in the chapel at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, where he read English literature as a student.

Born Vivian James in a suburb of Sydney in 1939, he moved to England at the age of 22 and made his name as a literary critic and TV columnist. He was also a poet, and a translator of Dante.

His three-volume autobiography, Always Unreliable, is as eloquent as it is hilarious.

Fellow critic at the Observer newspaper, Mark Lawson, once said James' writing was so funny that it was dangerous to read while holding a hot drink.

His essay for the London Review of Books on the fiction of Judith Krantz, A Blizzard of Tiny Kisses, begins as follows:

"To be a really lousy writer takes energy. The average novelist remains unread not because he is bad but because he is flat. On the evidence of Princess Daisy, Judith Krantz deserves her high place in the best-seller lists. This is the second time she has been up there. The first time was for a book called Scruples, which I will probably never get around to reading. But I don't resent the time I have put into reading Princess Daisy. As a work of art it has the same status as a long conversation between two not very bright drunks, but as best-sellers go it argues for a reassuringly robust connection between fiction and the reading public. If cheap dreams get no worse than this, there will not be much for the cultural analyst to complain about. Princess Daisy is a terrible book only in the sense that it is almost totally inept. Frightening it isn't."

He went on to analyse international TV programming in such shows as Clive James on Television.

The show saw him introduce amusing and off-beat TV clips from around the world, most famously from the Japanese game show Endurance.

His agent has said Clive James continued to work until four weeks before his death.

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