Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


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in Western Literature

An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

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Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


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Anton Chekhov, The Bishop, 1902

Translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky

The Bishop

Death of the Bishop:

The bishop did not sleep all night. And in the morning, around eight o’clock, he began to have intestinal bleeding. The cell attendant became frightened and ran first to the archimandrite, then for the monastery doctor, Ivan Andreich, who lived in town. The doctor, a stout old man with a long gray beard, examined the bishop for a long time, and kept shaking his head and scowling, then said:

"You know, Your Grace, you’ve got typhoid fever."

Within an hour the bishop became very thin from the bleeding, pale, pinched, his face shrank, his eyes were now very big, he looked older, smaller, and it seemed to him that he was thinner, weaker, more insignificant than anyone, that all that had once been had gone somewhere very far away and would no longer repeat itself, would not be continued.

"How good!" he thought, "How good!"

His old mother came. Seeing his shrunken face and big eyes, she became frightened, fell on her knees by the bed, and started kissing his face, shoulders, hands. And to her, too, it seemed that he was thinner, weaker, and more insignificant than anyone, and she no longer remembered that he was a bishop, and she kissed him like a child very near and dear to her.

"Pavlusha, my darling," she said, "my dear one! . . . My little son! . . .What makes you like this? Pavlusha, answer me!"

Katya, pale and stern, stood nearby and did not understand what was the matter with her uncle, why there was such suffering on her grandmother’s face, why she was saying such touching, sad words. And he could no longer say a word, he understood nothing, and imagined that he was now a simple, ordinary man, walking briskly, merrily across the fields, tapping his stick, and over him was the broad sky, flooded with sunlight, and he was free as a bird and could go wherever he liked!

"My little son, Pavlusha, answer me!" said the old woman. "What’s the matter with you? My dear one!"

"Don’t trouble His Grace," Sisoy said crossly, passing through the room, "Let him sleep . . . there’s no point . . . forget it! . . ."

Three doctors came, held a consultation, then left. The day was long, unbelievably long, then night came and lasted a very, very long time, and towards morning on Saturday the cell attendant went up to the old woman, who was lying on the sofa in the drawing room, and asked her to go to the bedroom:

The bishop had bid the world farewell.



Adrienne Nater, 2008

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