Saturday, July 05, 2003

A young CLR James sailed to London from Trinidad in 1932, and wrote nine essays recording his responses for the Port of Spain Gazette. You could hardly imagine anything more ephemeral, more tied to its place and time, less likely to achieve the reaction "blimey, this could have been written yesterday". And on the surface it is very much of its time. The prose may have been written by an intellectual, but it is simple to the point of artlessness. It describes the present and is not primarily given to making timeless statements that will ring down the ages. It is as concerned as a photograph with what is going on. James's task is to be a meticulous observer. Yet this is what makes the book seem, by the end, strikingly contemporary.

-- Nicholas Lezard, reviewing C.L.R. James's Letters from London ("my" book!) in today's Guardian Review.

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