Beyond a Boundary

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Beyond a Boundary
Beyond a Boundry.jpg
2005 UK Printing
Author C. L. R. James
Country Trinidad / United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Hutchinson, (1963)
Publication date
1963, 2005 (US 1982, 1993)
ISBN 978-0-224-07427-8
OCLC 58998824
LC Class GV917 .J27 2005
Preceded by Party Politics in the West Indies (1962)
Followed by A History of Pan-African Revolt (1969)

Beyond a Boundary (1963) is a memoir on cricket written by the Trinidadian Marxist intellectual C. L. R. James,[1] which James described as "neither cricket reminiscences nor autobiography".[2] It mixes social commentary, particularly on the place of cricket in the West Indies and England, with commentary on the game, arguing that what happened inside the "Boundary Line" in cricket affected life beyond it, as well as the converse. The book is in a sense a response to a Rudyard Kipling quote from the poem "English Flag": "What do they know of England who only England know?", which James in his Preface revised to: "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?"

Content[edit]

James recounts the role cricket played in his family's history, and his meetings with such early West Indian players as George John, Wilton St Hill, the great batsman George Headley and the all-rounder Learie Constantine, but focuses on the importance of the game and its players to society, specifically to colonial era Trinidad. James argues for the importance of sport in history, and refers to its roots in the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece. He documents the primacy of W. G. Grace in the development of modern cricket, and the values embraced by cricket in the development of the cultures of the British Empire. He approaches cricket as an art form, as well as discussing its political impact - particularly the role of race and class in early West Indian cricket. "Cricket", he writes, "had plunged me into politics long before I was aware of it. When I did turn to politics, I did not have too much to learn." Cricket is approached as a method of examining the formation of national culture, society in the West Indies, the United Kingdom, and Trinidad. Education, family, national culture, class, race, colonialism, and the process of decolonisation are all examined through the prism of contemporary West Indian cricket, the history of cricket, and James's life as a player of—and commentator and writer on—the sport of cricket.

James was born and educated in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He recounts the importance of cricket to himself and his community, the role it played in his education, and the disapproval from his family of his attempt to follow a sporting life along with his academic career, whom he describes as "Puritan". This too, he relates to cricket. James returns to the values imbued with cricket, first into the 19th-century English bourgeois culture of the British public school, and then out into the colonies. He contrasts this with American culture, his own growing radicalism, and the fact that the values of fair play and acceptance of arbitration without complaint rarely applies in the world beyond the cricket pitch.

After university, he played first-class cricket for a year in the Trinidad league. Having to choose from clubs divided by class, race and skin-tone, James writes of his recruitment as a dark-skinned university-educated player to Maple, a club of the light-skinned lower middle class. He writes, in a chapter entitled "The Light and the Dark": "...faced with the fundamental divisions in the island, I had gone to the right and, by cutting myself off from the popular side, delayed my political development for years."[3]

In 1932, James and Learie Constantine (a much more successful cricketer, with whom he co-wrote Cricket and I [1933] and The Colour Bar [1954]) travelled to Britain, Constantine playing as a professional in the Lancashire League, James pursuing his education, and earning a living as cricket correspondent of the Manchester Guardian. James recounts the lessons he learned from cricket about race and class in Britain, and the perspective that cricket gave him on the independence struggle in Trinidad, and the short-lived West Indies Federation, which he witnessed after his return in 1958. An advocate of Pan-Africanism, James examines the relationships of the unified West Indies cricket team through independence, nationalism of particular islands, and in interaction with other colonial and post-colonial national teams (such as West Indian tours of Australia and England).

Reputation and legacy[edit]

The book is widely recognised as one of the best and most important books on cricket. V. S. Naipaul wrote that it was "one of the finest and most finished books to come out of the West Indies."[4] In 2005, The Guardian ranked the book as the third best book on sport ever written,[5] and in the review of an earlier re-issue said famously that "To say 'the best cricket book ever written' is pifflingly inadequate praise." Another appraisal of the book observes: "The genius of Beyond a Boundary lies in its strong literary quality: almost unique among those who write about sport James had a theory of cricket, one that took in history and politics as well as memoir."[6]

In August 1996, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an abridgement (by Margaret Busby) of Beyond a Boundary read by Trevor McDonald.[7]

A conference at the University of Glasgow to mark the 50th anniversary of its first publication has been announced for 10–11 May 2013.[8]

Other cricket writings by James[edit]

For his non-cricket writing, see main entry for C. L. R. James

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]