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Writer and broadcaster Clive James dies aged 80

The critic famed for his poetry, wit and cultural commentary died at his home in Cambridge.

Clive James at the BBC's Christmas launch in 1991.
Clive James at the BBC's Christmas launch in 1991.
Image: PA Images

AUSTRALIAN WRITER AND broadcaster Clive James has died at the age of 80.

The critic famed for his poetry, wit and cultural commentary died at his home in Cambridge in the UK on Sunday.

A statement from his literary agents said that a funeral attended by family and close friends took place in the chapel at Pembroke College, Cambridge today

James was diagnosed with leukaemia, kidney failure and lung disease almost ten years ago.

“Clive died almost ten years after his first terminal diagnosis, and one month after he laid down his pen for the last time,” the statement said.

He endured his ever-multiplying illnesses with patience and good humour, knowing until the last moment that he had experienced more than his fair share of this ‘great, good world’.

“He was grateful to the staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for their care and kindness, which unexpectedly allowed him so much extra time. His family would like to thank the nurses of the Arthur Rank Hospice at Home team for their help in his last days, which allowed him to die peacefully and at home, surrounded by his family and his books.”

James first revealed the news of his illness in May 2011, when he had already been ill for 15 months – when he wrote to The Australian Literary Review to explain why he could not write for them.

A biography on James’ own website urges those writing an obituary of him to “feel free to quote any or all of the following, preferably keeping in mind that shorter is better, and that a single line is best”.

It outlines that James spent a year as assistant editor of the magazine page of the Sydney Morning Herald before sailing to England in 1961 where he spent the remainder of his life.

The biography details his career as a writer in the UK and his collections of writing in international publications such as the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker and New York Times.

Audiences may also be best familiar with James’ TV work on shows such as The Clive James Show and Clive James On Television.

In the years decade since his diagnoses, James has spoken about what it has been like to continuing living, once describing it as ‘embarrassing’

A poem by James titled Japanese Maple and published by the New Yorker in 2014 also speaks about death following his own terminal diagnoses. 

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Rónán Duffy

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