I have a new essay on grief and reading up at Numero Cinq.
I write about some of the books I’ve read since my wife died in May 2012, the ones that spoke most directly to my feeling of being “after the end.”
- Four J.G. Ballard novels.
- Two Primo Levi memoirs.
- Dave Eggers’ Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius.
- Two fantastic Julian Barnes novels.
- Plus a bit of Heidegger and Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History.
- And my own terrifying memories of attempting to move on, stay in the past, feel feelings and fight for hope:
If Levi was life within (and after) the catastrophe, Ballard is also charting “after the end.” I felt at home in these novels, which are more often read as pre-apocalyptic visions, but I think that’s a misreading. One paraphrase I read in a book on grief noted Heidegger said it was best to live as if the end had already come. This is exactly how I felt after Kate died. Where was I? How could she suddenly be gone? How could we be separated? That wasn’t supposed to happen. What was this place, without her? It wasn’t the world I had known. It was a place “after the end.” I felt pain, but I also felt free in a way I had never felt before. I could do anything, anything at all, and yet all I wanted to do was nothing. Just sit in front of a fire in the woods and poke at it with a stick.