Clive Sinclair

b. 1948 – d. 2018

Clive Sinclair was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1983.

He is remembered as an award-winning novelist and short story writer.

Clive Sinclair remembered – by Anthony Rudolf

Distinguished and significant diaspora Jewish writer

Clive Sinclair was one of the master short-story writers of our time, as we are reminded by his knockout posthumous collection, Shylock Must Die. The stories were written over the last few years – the later ones on the cutting edge, in the full knowledge that he himself must die soon, having been seriously ill for some time. He bore the combo transplanted kidney/prostate condition with stoical melancholy and lugubrious humour, communicating in the mordant way he made his own, while leading a quiet life with his gentle and gifted painter partner, Haidee Becker, whom he met after the death of his wife, Fran. He saw his equally gentle and gifted film-writer son, Seth, resident in la, as often as possible, both here and there. He converted his dog Lobusz to Judaism without circumcision.

Hendon-born Clive was a natural and cultivated Londoner who travelled regularly to the us, Italy and, especially, Israel, where he would meet his friends, the artist Yosl Bergner and writers such as David Grossman, and return to London at once elated and downcast. He wrote about the country’s underrated complexities brilliantly in Diaspora Blues and targets Netanyahu (‘Bobo’) in Shylock Must Die with ferocity. Clive, unillusioned about Israel but not entirely disillusioned, was a distinguished and significant diaspora Jewish writer (indeed a distinguished and significant writer tout court), profoundly respecting and admiring three Roths, Joseph, Henry and Philip, two Isaacs, Babel and Singer (he wrote a book on the latter), and one Kafka, whose Hebrew teacher he made sure he met, just as I met Kafka’s school friend Shmuel Bergman. Kitaj the painter, too, was in the frame.

Clive and I maintained a dialogue for 40 years, reading each other’s work, attending the same funerals (most recently his own) and, consciously and unconsciously, participating in a vanished, indeed non-existent, world: Ashkenazia, his Jewish diaspora homeland. Once I was at Bushey Jewish cemetery looking for Alma Cogan’s grave and getting lost, not without sad pleasure. I happened upon Clive’s parents’ grave (a few yards from that of my own parents) and called him. Sure enough he directed me to Alma’s, close by, with its story ripe for deconstruction.

Clive also had an inner cowboy who led him to writing fiction about the Wild West, but it is the non-cowboy stories and novellas which hold this reader in thrall. Start with the Chekhovian ‘The Lady with the Laptop’ and go from there.

Image credit: Seth Sinclair