>Death and Dying: A literary reading list in 5 parts

> Part 1: Suicides

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. ~Albert Camus

Each victim of suicide gives his act a personal stamp which expresses his temperament, the special conditions in which he is involved, and which, consequently, cannot be explained by the social and general causes of the phenomenon. ~Emile Durkheim

Write something, even if it is just a suicide note. ~Gore Vidal

Snow, Orhan Pamuk(2002, translated 2004)
The idea that suicide might spread contagiously like the plague had first been suggested after a girl traveled all the way from Batman to Kars just kill herself. … Ka thought it strangely depressing that the suicide girls had had to struggle to find a private moment to kill themselves.

Returning to Earth, Jim Harrison (2007)
Here I am on the sofa at age forty-five and I have Lou Gehrig’s disease. …
We’re going to the place Donald wishes to die. When he dies we’ll bury him. That’s all. Of course it’s illegal but fuck everyone.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (1971)
Wrapping my black coat round me like my own sweet shadow, I unscrewed the bottle of pills and started taking them swiftly, between gulps of water, one by one by one.

Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho (1999)
In a world where everyone struggles to survive whatever the cost, how could one judge those people who decide to die? No one can judge. Each person knows the extent of their own suffering or the total absence of meaning in their lives. Veronika wanted to explain that, but instead she choked on the tube in her mouth.

After Ikkyu and Other Poems, Jim Harrison (1996)
If you had hung yourself in Argentina, you would have twisted counterclockwise.
We can’t ask if it was worth it, can we?

Prisoner’s Dilemma, Richard Powers (1988)
The photo makes it obvious. Dad wants to go down. … He simply wants the sharp, stabbing pain and will sooner die of it than mask it with analgesics. He demands to feel the genuine and valuable signal of something gone wrong that needs correcting. He wants death by loneliness to add to his vita. It is not too auspicious a biography, as biographies go. But with the right death, it could become the corrective biography for his time, an era when the unexperienced life has at last gotten the uncontested upper hand.

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