Written by Jord Schaap
Reflection on Goldeneye
Ian Lancaster Fleming, the creator of the literary James Bond, died on August 12th, 1964.
He was then sixty-five years old and had lived a life not unbecoming the lyrics of Sinatra’s famous song My Way. It was a life lived day by day, and for the greater part filled with travelling, excitement, liquor, women and nicotine. Most likely, it was this exhausting way of life that resulted in his relative premature death.
The life of Ian Fleming was all about the struggle against routine. The author couldn’t survive without change and challenge, and his freedom as a human being, as an adventurer, as a member of the jet-set, as a dreamer and author was without any doubt the most valuable thing he possessed.
This makes it understandable that Ian Fleming feared commitment with a woman: he was afraid to lose his freedom, and to arrange himself inside the boring bodice of family life. Fleming feared the everyday-life, a life that would inevitable reveal his human weaknesses.
Is it coincidence then, that the literary character of James Bond rose in the head of Fleming on the eve of his marriage with Anne Rothermere?
For the resemblance between the literary James Bond and his creator is striking. James Bond lives the same life Ian Fleming did before he tied the knot. Intensive, day by day, unsteady. Bond smokes and drinks a lot, just as Fleming did. And when it comes up to women, Ian Fleming had, in his younger years, a true Bond-like reputation.
In his novels Fleming wrote down all his frustrations about life; he ventilated his fears for routine, his desire for adventure and perfection. On Goldeneye, the small villa on Jamaica where Fleming wrote most of the Bond-novels, rose a blue-print of Ian Fleming himself: James Bond.
Fleming died early, but lived intensive. In the case of James Bond it should be the same. For at the end of his life, Ian Fleming said:
They can quit the whole show. I proved that I can play my cards, and I won the stakes. And now they may keep it all.
Ernest L. Cuneo responded this way on this words:
James Bond, who in the books is deadly bored so often, would when he had really existed, probably have done the same. What would be more ridiculous than an highly-aged James Bond?
In his comment lies an plain warning: when James Bond would have really existed, and would have to choose between decay and a quick, honourable come-down the choice would be easy for him. Physical decay combinated with routine and boredom would be disastrous for James Bond, and he would, in view of all which he had to go through during his life, made up his mind quickly.
Let us give free course to our phantasy a little bit:
James Bond: fictional psychological analysis
Sir James Molony, physician and nerve-specialist attached to the MI6-physical service, writes a short psychological analysis on agent 007, a.k.a. James Bond.
During his career, agent 007 was generally in good health. But in spite of his excellent physical condition, his body begins to show the natural signs of decay, signs which with every human being is confronted at a certain age. But in the case of 007, the developments of decay are intensified by the great physical damage he gained during his career, damage which is the consequence of many sustained (serious) injuries and the effects of multiple physical and mental torturings.
More serious is the influence which this high physical pressure has on the mental condition of agent 007. Together with the consequences of the earlier mentioned physical and mental torturings this pressure provides a constant high strain on nerves, spirit and tranquillity of mind.
The negative effects of agent 007’s profession on his private life deserve some special attention. I assume all are acquainted with the fact that the wife of agent 007 has died tragically in the presence of the agent. Operating in Hamburg during one of his more recent missions, a former lover of agent 007 was shot in cold blood. The concerning lady got involved in the mission through a unfortunate coincidence.
In the case of agent 007, the effects of the death of several acquaintances and beloved ones are very serious, because their death was connected with incidents in which agent 007 was involved by virtue of his profession. Agent 007 suffers the fact that beside his profession as double-zero agent in the Service a private life seems impossible.
007 sees himself as a man who leaves behind only shadows. He is not much more than an anonymous silhouette on Her Majesty’s secret service. On the one hand this camouflage offers him a safe protection against the trauma’s, memories and compuction which haunt agent 007. But on the other side his profession is fatal for relationships, and it keeps agent 007 from a living a normal life.
The constant flight for doubts and questions about the profession – a normal phenomenon among agents on active service – holds agent 007 from processing the many injuries he sustained physically and mentally during his career.
Retiring from active service will most likely lead to a serious physical and mental collapse: the opening of a cesspool filled with unprocessed trauma’s and emotions will, together with deadly boredom and physical decay, two things which agent 007 detests, demand their toll.
In view of the fact that agent 007 has connected his life to his profession in an unconditional way, it will not be unlikely that suicide will end the life of this highly valued agent.
Sir James Molony
A better way to die?
This psychological essay is of course fictional. James Bond doesn’t exist, and his fictional character has been developed in many different ways throughout the years. But, when we approach the character of Bond and everything he goes through in a human, realistic way, then the psychological analysis of MI6-physician Molony would not be far from the truth.
The death of James Bond would be early, with due observance of his intensive way of life. But undoubtedly he would also have collapsed under the enormous physical pressure and by the countless unprocessed traumas which are haunting him. Bond would have never accepted a life without change, excitement and challenge. He would forestall the boredom, and would not go through the decay of body and mind.
In the movies there has always been little attention for this realistic approach, with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Licence To Kill and the current approach of Pierce Brosnan as positive exceptions. In the novels this attention has always been much greater.
But how would the death of James Bond be? For the last time, a fictional speculation…
It rained. Below, on the street, the London traffic moved slowly through the raw autumn-weather. M turned around, and averted his eyes from the window. He walked towards the desk and sat down for a little while. Then, he turned on the screen of his computer and wrote the following:
In Memoriam – James Bond
Yesterday evening Commander James Bond, C.M.G., R.N.V.R., has died. He was sixty-five years old.
Commander Bond has retired from active service for a long time, and has, after his retiring from the double-zero section, served well a few years on the section “training and education”.
A sudden admission on a psychiatric recovery-institute made an abrupt end on this work. The quick transition from active service into a situation of retirement turned out to be fatal for Commander Bond.
During his career Commander Bond proved to be of an enormous value. Countless are the times that he has devoted himself to the country with the risk of life.
But Commander Bond has gone through many tragical occurrences during his life, among which the brutal assault on his wife, the late Countess di Vincenzo.
These traumas turned out to be too much to cope with for Commander Bond, and it is with regret that I must announce that the circumstances under which Commander Bond was found dead this morning were very dubious. I ask you all to handle the details about the death of the valued Commander Bond with the greatest discretion.
I would like to end with the announcement that it pleased Her Majesty the Queen to knight Commander Bond posthumous, seen his great merits in order to serve the country.
His dead is tragical, because Commander Bond has saved the world multiple times during his career, while that same world never offered Commander Bond the fortune of a happy life.
For him, the world never was enough.
Jord Schaap © 2002