MI6 previews a new book that explores Britain's post-war trauma through a character who can now be seen as the quintessential British figure - James Bond

Book Preview: The Man Who Saved Britain
2nd April 2006

The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond

Bond. James Bond. The ultimate British hero—suave, stoic, gadget-driven—he was more than anything the necessary invention of a traumatized country whose self-image as a great power had just been shattered by the Second World War. Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, was an upper-class wastrel who had found purpose and excitement in the war, and to whom, like so many others, its end was a terrible disappointment—the elation of survival stifled by the reality of the new British impotence.

By writing "Casino Royale" and inventing the magical, parallel world of secret British greatness, Fleming fabricated a durable icon - one who for millions of bored former servicemen holding down dreary jobs or for members of the ruling class, lashed almost daily by the humiliation of international events throughout the 1950s, made life more bearable. Written with humour, wit and a great deal of personal insight and affection, Simon Winder illuminates and makes sense of the oddities and contrasts which emerged in Britain as a result of the war.

As victory over Japan was declared in 1945, Britain was a relieved but also a profoundly traumatized country. It was a very peculiar trauma, created by having won the war while in many ways losing it. The war had ruined Britain's image of itself as a great power. It had only prevailed through the assistance of the two greatest nations on earth; and it now found itself bankrupt, dependent and - despite the efforts of the new Labour reform government - with no discernible future. This feeling prevailed for decades and it still seeps into national life today. "The Man Who Saved Britain" explores this trauma through a figure who can now be seen as the quintessential British figure of the time, the great necessary invention who provided a palliative of sorts to many millions of people: James Bond.


Above: Book cover art

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In 1952 Ian Fleming invented a magical, parallel world of secret British greatness and glamour, he fabricated an icon that has endured long past its maker’s death.

To grow up in England in the 1970s was to grow up with James Bond, and The Man Who Saved Britain is first of all the story of the author’s relationship with the “national religion.” Simon Winder lovingly and ruefully re-creates the nadirs and humiliations of fandom while illuminating what Bond’s evolution—from books to film, from his roots in the 1940s to his “managed decline” today—says about the conservative movement, sex, the monarchy, food, attitudes toward America, class, and everything in between.

The Man Who Saved Britain is an insightful and, above all, entertaining exploration of postwar Britain through the palliative influence of one of its most legendary icons, the larger-than-life Agent 007.

The 300 page hardback book will be published in the UK by Picador for release on 2nd June 2006, and in the USA by Farrar, Straus and Giroux for release on 17th October 2006.

About The Author
Simon Winder is the editor of several anthologies, including the highly praised Night Thoughts. He works in publishing in London, where he lives with his family.