James Clavell

From Academic Kids

James Clavell (Charles Edmund DuMaresq de Clavelle) (October 10 1924September 7 1994) was a novelist and screenwriter, famous for books such as Shogun and films such as The Great Escape and To Sir, with Love.


"The Asian Saga"

After publishing King Rat in 1962, Clavell returned to novels with Tai-Pan in 1966. Set during the founding period of Hong Kong in the 1840s, Tai-Pan became the model for Clavell's later novels, which involve a large number of characters and numerous loosely interwoven plots. Shogun was published in 1975 and became his most popular book. With Noble House he began his the practice of connecting these formally disparate novels together by having characters, or families, or descendents of families (some from as far back as 400 years) from the previous novels appearing in the plot of the current one. Both Shogun and Noble House were made into television miniseries. Whirlwind came next and was set during the Iranian revolution of 1979. For this novel he received the largest advance payment, at the time, for an unwritten work. Many critics (as they tend to do) leapt on this in their reviews and ignored the content of the story. Nevertheless it was not the big seller that the previous two novels had been and no television version or movie was produced. Gai-Jin was published shortly before his death and took the story back to the 1860's. One of the main connections in this saga (they are only missing from King Rat and Shogun) is the history of the Struans, a trading company, based on the actual company Jardine Matheson.

These novels, taken together, came to be officially known as The Asian Saga. The main theme tying these books together is the meeting of Western civilization and East Asian civilization after the Age of Discovery and up to modern times.

Clavell is sometimes called one of the first multiculturalists. Although he did not call himself a cultural relativist, he attempted to admire Asian cultures by their own standards rather than viewing them through a Western lens. He often implied that the West has a great deal to learn from the East.

His protagonists are Westerners (mainly Britons) brought to Asia for commercial purposes. Clavell was a believer in the benefits of free trade between nations, seeing it not as a form of exploitation but as as a means of bringing different cultures together by binding them together in common interest. Because of this, there is little anti-imperialism in Clavell's works.

It may be said that the real protagonists in Clavell's novels are not the characters, but the time and place; the characters are the canvas on which Clavell illustrates a culture.



'The Asian Saga'

Other books include:

External link

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