After an operation, I lounge around with my face in a sling, contemplating eternityby Clive James / April 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
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.
Shortly after all this went on, or maybe not so shortly, it’s hard to be certain, I was awake again and seemingly equipped for thinking, although God alone knows what made me think that I was even halfway equipped for that. But unaccountably it became clear to me, even as I hovered between being gaga and blissed out, that it might be a contribution of some kind if I can put my articles and poems on Philip Larkin together into a single book that would help to define his current position, to the extent that it still needs defining.
All I would need to do would be to make sure that my publishers and his would see the desirability of such a project. Thinking about stuff like this seemed like the right-sized task for someone whose means of expression had been reduced to a grunt. The grunt, incidentally, was on sideways, like a Picasso of unusually low value.
I could keep up these metaphors about my clock-stopping appearance but…