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Original newspaper report of Ian Fleming`s death republished

12-Aug-2009 • Literary

The Guardian newspaper (UK) has republished its original report of Ian Fleming's death:

Ian Fleming dies after heart attack
Originally published on 13 August 1964

Ian Fleming, the author and creator of James Bond, died in the Kent and Canterbury Hospital early yesterday following a heart attack. He was 56.

Leader: 007 – man or brute?

In his time, Bond was attacked by giant squid, hauled naked across razor-edged coral rocks and almost pulled apart by a rack-like apparatus. Always he survived to tell the tale; and returned, appetite undiminished, to his cars, his meals, and his girls. Yet even Bond, one imagines, can hardly survive his creator: 007 has bitten the dust at last.

But before he finally disappears he deserves at least a farewell glance. Bond was a symbol of the times. He appealed unashamedly to two powerful instincts: snobbery, and the latent sadomasochism which is present beneath the surface of all civilisations. Charged with this, his creator gave two replies. Bond's snob-appeal he claimed as unintentional. In his first book he had given Bond a good meal – and what was wrong with that? – and the readers had clamoured for more. As for the sex, Bond was just a great, big, virile he-man whose healthy masculinity upset his critics because they lacked it themselves. These answers were, and are, unconvincing. Bond never fussed about the old school tie; and he would not have won millions of readers if he had.

But he was a snob none the less. He was the man who would always know the right width of trouser-leg to wear and the right vintage to drink. Above all he was always prepared to share his esoteric secrets with the semi-detached in subtopia. The same applies to his alleged healthy masculinity. The real objection was not that Bond slept around, as his defenders seemed to think – though it is, perhaps, noteworthy that his girls were not human beings so much as objects. The real objection was what was done to him: the tortures inflicted on him, and the obsessive way in which they were described.

The treatment of violence in literature will always be a matter for controversy. It is arguable that sadistic books act as safety-valves for sadistic emotions; and if this could be proved, then Bond could claim that he performed a social service. Better Bond, after all, than Buchenwald. Unfortunately, however, this argument rests on assertion, not on proof; and in the absence of solid proof to the contrary, there can be no good reason to reject the obvious view that the violence is emotionally linked to the ever present threat of violence in the world around us. Bond and Buchenwald, when all is said and done, belonged to the same century.

Thanks to `` for the alert.

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