The Australian star, who made his name with the long-running television series Clive James On Television, was diagnosed with leukaemia, kidney failure and lung disease in 2010.
He told listeners to the Radio 4 programme Meeting Myself Coming Back: “I’m getting near the end. I don’t want to cast a gloom, an air of doom, over the programme but I’m a man who is approaching his terminus.”
In the show, to be broadcast on Saturday, James said he has “been really ill for two and a half years” and “almost died four times in that period”.
James was born in Sydney and came to England in 1961, where he made a career in journalism including a successful stint as a prominent literary critic and then television columnist for the Observer.
Clive James On Television was broadcast by ITV throughout the 1980s until he defected to the BBC and his wry commentary on programmes, including the Japanese game show Endurance, made him a household name.
The father of two, who is married to academic Prue Shaw.
He said: “I’ve been so sick since January 2010, especially my lung disease, that I’m not allowed to fly. You couldn’t get enough oxygen aboard a plane for me to get me to Sydney.”
James also spoke about the “defining event” of his life – the death of his father when he was a baby.