A while ago I read five books in a row that all dealt predominantly with death. Those were The Fault in our Stars by John Green, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely loud & incredibly close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Slaughterhouse five by Kurt Vonnegut, and The book thief by Markus Zusak. All of these books are brilliant in their own right. All the authors have worked in some way to make sense of the finite nature of their and everyone’s existence. All of the authors are engaged in unravelling the mystery of life from the endpoint and are putting there personal spin on it from there. All the authors are men.
I was left wondering why they were all so fascinated with death. Is it because men are so close to death, because historically they had to face death on a larger scale as they were the ones sent to war? Is it because they see it as another challenge to conquer? Or is it because death is more accessible to them, because they have the capability to give death, but not to give life?
Vonnegut looks at death as just one state of being and considers it as something of a temporal timeout. It also happens to everything and everyone. Therefore it is not tragic, but natural. This is exemplified with his refrain “And so it goes.” Green comes to the conclusion that a life well lived, no matter for how long, is the ultimate goal that whatever comes after is complicated. Foer sees a strong connection between the living and the dead by the history and remembrance of those dead. As long as people still know his story or her story the person is not gone. And sometimes that person still has the ability to shape other people’s lives. Zusak makes death the narrator of his story and shows him as a caring, thoughtful and sympathetic guy. A guy with remorse.
I highly recommend all five books. I think that they are masterfully done and that they deserve to be read and thought about. I would wish to see books from those authors that focus more on the beginning of life; on birth and development and the way a new life changes all the existing lives around it. Here’s hoping.