Book Mini-Review: C.L.R. James, The Radical “Black European”

C.L.R. James: A Life Beyond The Boundaries.

John L. Williams.

London: Constable, 457 pp., $32.99.

The Old Man was once quite young–almost permanently so. And vibrant, always ready for socialist revolution. But not for the overthrow of European civilization and culture. In a new biography, John L. Williams pulls back the curtain just enough to show why intellectuals, particularly culturally complex ones, need platforms and bases. What results is a non-judgemental tale about a 20th-century charismatic Caribbean intellectual destined for the classroom, the typewriter, the lecture hall and the cricket field. His cultlike, harem-based sexism will rile 21st-century readers but his stamina and constant optimism never fail to impress. Most of all, James–whose long speaking and writing life spans the birth, revolutionary work, danger and martyrdom of fellow Caribbean Leftist world travelers such as Walter Rodney and Maurice Bishop–shows that revolution requires a lot of work.

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