Why Should I Read?...
Beyond a Boundary
CLR James, 1963
“Why Should I Read…?” has only looked at one sports book before, and that was as much for its narrative interest as its sporting theme. Beyond a Boundary is very different: unlike The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, this is a remarkably self-aware book.
Beyond a Boundary is nonetheless a complex and subtle work. James was a Trinidadian political activist – a Communist for much of his life—who spent many years in the
James was also—and here’s where the seeming contradictions start to arise—a passionate cricket lover. There is an immediate irony in James’ attraction to the most British of games even while his political consciousness was reacting against British rule.
Beyond a Boundary is a remarkable meditation. James dwells lovingly on the cricketing heroes of his youth, but always through the lens of the
As late as the 1950s, it was inconceivable that a black man could captain the West Indies cricket team, even when—as was the case at this time—there was no white player worthy of a place. James campaigned ceaselessly for the appointment of Frank Worrell as captain, a black West Indian who commanded universal respect. In due course, Worrell was made captain, a role he filled with distinction for several years.
“What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?” asked James. Beyond a Boundary is the supreme exploration of how sport can reflect wider social questions—and all retailed in prose of lyrical beauty. A great book.
How has it influenced me?
This book was perhaps the first to make me realise that sport isn’t just about what happens on the field. That, indirectly, led to the galley-racing strand of Dragonchaser, but more importantly Beyond a Boundary opened my eyes.
Lessons for the aspiring writer
Even the most trivial aspects of human existence have wider significance
If you want to write about weighty political issues, it helps to be able to write decent English
Sometimes the best way to tackle political themes is not to write directly about politics