Clive James: Australian broadcaster and author dies aged 80

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Clive James
Image caption,
James died "peacefully and at home, surrounded by his family", his agents said

Clive James, the Australian writer and broadcaster known around the world for his dry wit, has died at the age of 80.

Diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010, the author and critic had movingly written about his terminal illness during the final years of his life.

Born Vivian James in 1939, he moved to England in 1961 and rose to prominence as a literary critic and TV columnist.

He went on to deliver wry commentary on international programming in such shows as Clive James On Television.

The show saw him introduce amusing and off-beat TV clips from around the world, most famously from Japanese game show Endurance.

According to a statement from his agents, he died at home in Cambridge on Sunday. A private funeral was held on Wednesday in the chapel at Pembroke College.

"Clive died almost 10 years after his first terminal diagnosis, and one month after he laid down his pen for the last time," the statement read.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Clive James pictured on the set of Saturday Night Clive in 1989

"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 [in Cambridge] 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."

Singer Alison Moyet was among many to pay tribute to a man she described as a "bright, beaming boy".

Ex-tabloid editor Piers Morgan remembered him as "a brilliantly funny man", while presenter Gaby Roslin said he had been "incredibly kind".

Media caption,

Clive James in 2016 on life, regrets and being lucky

"We were lucky to have him for so long after his diagnosis," wrote actor Samuel West. "We were lucky to have him at all."

Monty Python star Eric Idle expressed his sadness at losing "dear Clive James my pal at Cambridge".

Reverend Richard Coles said he was "the best telly critic that ever there was", while Margarita Pracatan - the Cuban singer James helped make a household name - paid tribute to his "intelligence... talent and beautiful way of living".

James was "unquestionably the greatest Australian poet of his time", said George Brandis, Australia's High Commissioner to the UK, adding to tributes in the writer's beloved homeland.

Tony Hall, the BBC's director general, said the "irreplaceable" James was "a clever, witty and thought-provoking broadcaster".

"He had a huge range of talents and everything he did was essential listening or viewing," Lord Hall continued.

'Condom full of walnuts'

James was renowned for his pithy turns of phrase. He once likened Arnold Schwarzenegger to "a brown condom full of walnuts" and said motor racing commentator Murray Walker sounded "like a man whose trousers are on fire".

He was equally waspish when describing Dame Barbara Cartland, whose eyes he said "looked like the corpses of two small crows that had crashed into a chalk cliff".

"Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds," was another of his famous quotes.

He also had advice for his future obituarists, telling them "shorter is better, and that a single line is best".

"Any encounter with James, either in print or in person, left you desperate to go and open a book, watch a film or a TV show, or hunt down a recording," said Don Paterson, poetry editor at James's publisher Picador.

"With Clive's passing we lose the wisest and funniest of writers, a loyal and kind friend, and the most finely-stocked mind we will ever have the fortune to encounter."

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