Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Beyond a Boundary broke down the barriers of race, class and empire - by Selma James...

In light of the event in Hackney to celebrate CLR, the following article may be on interest....

Fifty years ago my husband's book on cricket inspired our anti-discrimination struggles – and continues to do so to this day..
Fifty years ago, after a March as cold as the one just gone, my husband CLR James's semi-autobiographical Beyond a Boundary appeared as the cricket season opened. Reviews were favourable, but none even approached the incomparable (and anti-racist) John Arlott's, in Wisden, "the cricketers' Bible".

It was the almanack's centenary edition (19 April 1963), itself a national event: "1963 has been marked by the publication of a cricket 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 … in the opinion of the reviewer, it is the finest book written about the game of cricket."

Hard to know from this extraordinary accolade that the book could not, at first, find a publisher. In desperation, CLR asked his friend George Lamming if he could help. Hutchinson had not long before published Lamming's In the Castle of My Skin, a great novel, and he used its succès d'estime to sell CLR's manuscript.

Years later I learned that it was Lamming who had named it – almost. He had proposed Beyond the Boundary, which the publisher changed to "a" for no reason we could agree with. "The" challenges all boundaries, not just cricket's – a true description of the book.

It was a book CLR had to write. 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.
Read on here:

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