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Late reading with Clive James

After an operation, Clive recovers with George Herbert’s help—and ponders the absurdity of Bodyguard
ILLUSTRATION BY ANDRÉ CARRILHO

It was the week before last, or something like that, that I checked into the Addenbrooke’s Treatment Centre in Cambridge, for yet another operation, this time to remove a discreetly galloping cancer somewhere in my salivary gland. The estimated time of the operation was four hours, but in the few days since the plan was formed, the tumour had grown. The operation, which now included some cunning reconstructive surgery, would take eight hours; rather longer than the full-length version of Cleopatra. Julius Caesar didn’t survive that one, and if I’d been a spectator of my own epic, I might not have survived either. Luckily no one I knew was plugged into the story except members of my family, and they said that even the strangest bit was not quite as scary as it sounded because the surgeons said such reassuring things about attaching one bit of me to another. One of the bits that got attached came from my thigh. I can’t quite figure out even now what it was doing being grafted into my sinus cavity. It’s not that these things haven’t been explained to me: it’s just that I’m not yet fully equipped to understand them because my mentality is a bit blurred.

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About Prospect Magazine

InProspect's May issue: Tom Clark explores how British politics has ended up in crisis and suggests that a proper constitution could have avoided the current chaos and may well be necessary now to avoid the same problems in the future. Elsewhere in the issue: Kevin Maguire profiles Labour deputy leader Tom Watson who says that “if needs must” he would join a government of national unity. Max Rashbrooke examines Jacinda Ardern’s government in New Zealand and the ways the country is being transformed, ultimately suggesting that it could be an example for Britain to follow. Also, Stefanie Marsh follows the work of a donor detective who is helping children conceived by anonymous sperm donation to find their biological parents and Francesca Wade shows how Virginia Woolf is inspiring a new generation of women writers.