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Blindfold Games was the first volume of Alan Ross’s autobiography. He was a most attractive man. William Boyd has eloquently described his appeal, ‘There was a sophisticated raffishness and glamour about him . . . nothing seedy or earnest. He owned racehorses. He loved women and travel. . . He was a poet and a brilliant writer on cricket.’ He was also one of the great literary editors, running the London Magazine in its heyday.
This volume begins in Bengal, where he was born, and ends in Germany in 1946 when the author was twenty-four. It takes in his childhood in India, his schooldays in England, his time at Oxford, and, most hauntingly, his experiences on the Arctic convoys during the Second World War. He survived: very many of his friends were killed.
To give it a less humdrum description one can turn to the author’s own words. ‘War, India, cricket: these were my first subjects as a writer and they remain the preoccupations of this book. In due course, the playing of games was replaced by writing about them, and it was to the belief that the best characteristics of each derive from the same source that I nailed my colours. The searching for ‘suitable similes’ . . . whether for Hammond’s off-drive, Stanley Matthews’ mesmeric dribbling, or a racehorse’s action, was as good a way as I could imagine of relating techniques to aesthetics. . .
Perhaps, as much as anything, writing this book has been an attempt to reconcile differing definitions of style and to trace the manner in which a single-minded devotion to sport developed into a passion for poetry.’
‘An exceptional autobiography, beautifully written’ John Carey
‘A beautifully composed book’ Raleigh Trevelyan
‘A Delightful account of the first part of his life, which, I shall lay odds, is likely to become a classic’ Allan Massie, Listener
‘A brilliant performance’ Anthony Curtis
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