21 July, 2007

What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?

This is the theme of CLR James's famous book about West Indian cricket, which is a strange and wonderful book. I don't know enough about cricket to appreciate it as much as I could, but I found it fascinating. It's partly a social history of cricket in the context of the colonies, and a discussion of the ways that cricket influenced the struggle for liberation in the West Indies, and partly a discussion of the aesthetics of cricket: James compares cricket to the Olympics of the Ancient Greeks, but also describes it as an art form, comparing it with formalised physical forms like ballet.

It's also partly a memoir of James's life: his upbringing is deeply connected with playing, watching and talking about cricket, to the extent that it is through cricket and the local racial politics associated with it that James's consciousness of the politics of the British Empire is really awoken. [43]

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