10/30/06 - james bond

In today's excerpt - James Bond spy novels become wildly successful in Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s, laying the groundwork for the hugely successful movie franchise that followed. Simon Winder writes that the early success of these novels stemmed from the tattered psyches of the post-World War II British, as their cherished Empire rapidly unraveled:

"Fundamentally the War, despite its being won, consisted for Britain of a ceaseless nightly Blitz of humiliations, compromises and setbacks, and these did not stop with 1945 but kept up in a relentless battering until well into the 1970s ... [with Britain as] the European Economic Community's ... poorest member country ...

"[The establishment of the British Empire], whereby over centuries great chunks of the world were repopulated and reconfigured by British settlers whose almost insectoid blankness and rapacity will surely to some later global generation make them appear far, far worse than the Mongols, fell to pieces. ... If people understood in 1945 that Britain had won the War only because the United States and the USSR had won it with them, then they certainly did not understand that the consequence would be the demolition of the British Empire, a cornerstone of national identity, hopes, fears and opportunities, in the space of about fifteen years. ...

"The effect of this change within Britain was massive and profound trauma—it enraged millions of British who neither understood it nor saw how they could create for themselves a new identity without the Empire. ... As Britain's greatness went off a cliff with the chaotic mass decolonization of 1960 ... the [James Bond] books' sales went higher and higher. ... As a large part of the planet slipped from Britain's grasp one man silently maintained the country's reputation. When a secret organization with stolen atomic weapons planned to destroy Miami Beach it was not the Americans who would save the world, but a solitary Englishman, mucking around for wholly implausible reasons in the Bahamas. The beautiful Domino, key to the mystery, approaches him with the immortal exchange: 'And who might you be?' 'My name's Bond, James Bond.' "


Simon Winder


The Man Who Saved Britain


Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux


Copyright 2006 by Simon Winder


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