Clive James: 'I'm getting near the end'

Clive James

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Clive James says he is now "a recluse" after several years of serious illness.

The Australian writer and broadcaster was diagnosed with leukaemia, kidney failure and lung disease in 2010.

"I've been really ill for two-and-a-half years," said the 72-year-old. "I'm getting near the end. I'm a man who is approaching his terminus."

Yet James's comments to BBC Radio 4's Meeting Myself Coming Back have since been played down by his spokeswoman, who said he was "in reasonable shape".

In the interview, to be broadcast in full on Saturday, James spoke at length about his health problems.

"I was diagnosed with leukaemia then I had COPD - which is a fancy name for emphysema - and my immune system packed up," he said. "And that's just the start.

"I almost died four times and I swore to myself if I can just get through this winter, I'd feel better.

"And I got through the winter and here it is a lovely sunny day and guess what, I don't feel better."

Clive James moved to England in 1961, and rose to prominence as a literary critic and television columnist.

He later became well-known for his TV work, including Clive James On Television and his commentary on programmes such as the Japanese gameshow Endurance.

"My tragedy now is that I'm so ill I can't get out so I'm a bit of a recluse," he said.

Clive James: A Point of View

Listen to Clive James' Orwell Prize winning essays for Radio 4's A Point of View

"I keep thinking of things I might have done better and remember the good times of course.

"But mainly I remember the errors. It's my nature, it makes me almost ­impossible to live and work with."

James is married to academic Prue Shaw, with whom he has two children.

The broadcaster says he is now worried he may never get to see his home country again.

"I've been so sick I'm not allowed to fly.

"You couldn't get enough oxygen aboard a plane to get me to Sydney. I used to be in Australia for five or six times a year but now I can't go.

"The wistfulness is really building up and I'm facing the possibility I might never see Sydney again."

Following the release of material from the programme, James's representative said the interview had "sounded much less doom-laden than it does when transcribed".

"Clive is in fact in reasonable shape and is looking forward to years of working, writing his books and his column for the [Daily] Telegraph."

Meeting Myself Coming Back, in which Clive James looks back across his entire career, will be broadcast on Saturday 23 June at 20:00 BST on BBC Radio 4.

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