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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Irene Nemirovsky, David Golder, 1929

Translation: Sandra Smith

Death of David Golder

Irene Nemirovsky, Suite Francaise, 1941

Translated by Sandra Smith, 2006

Death of Charlie Langele

Irene Nemirovsky, David Golder, 1929
Translation: Sandra Smith

Death of David Golder:

Golder was alone.

He had the still, frozen look of a corpse. But death had not claimed him all at once, like a wave. He had felt himself losing his voice, the heat of life, consciousness of the man he had once been. But right until the end, he could see. He watched as the light of the setting sun spilled over the sea, saw how the water sparkled.

And, deep from within his memory, until he drew his final breath, certain images continued to flash before him, fainter and more indistinct as death drew nearer. For a moment, he thought he was actually touching Joyce’s hair, her skin. Then she seemed to pull away, to abandon him, as he plunged deeper into darkness. One last time, he thought he could hear her laugh, light and sweet, like a bell ringing in the distance. Then she was gone. He saw Marcus. Certain faces, vague shapes, as if carried along by the water at dusk, would swirl around for a moment, then disappear. And, as he reached the end, all he could see was a shop, lit up, on a dark street, a street from his childhood, a candle set behind an icy window, the night, snow falling, and himself . . . He could feel snowflakes on his lips, which melted with the taste of ice and water so familiar to him from the past. And he could hear someone calling: “David, David …” A voice hushed by the snow, the low, dark sky . . . A small voice that suddenly grew fainter and faded away, as if heading in a different direction. It was the last sound he was to hear on this earth.



Irene Nemirovsky, Suite Francaise, 1941
Translated by Sandra Smith 2006

Death of Charlie Langele:

After Hortense had gone, Charlie hurried to change his collar and cuffs and wash his hands. He had a lot to drink at the bar. He felt extraordinarily light-headed and pleased with himself. He didn’t wait for the lift, an ancient, slow piece of equipment, but sped down the stairs like a young man. He was going to meet his lovely friends, a charming women. He was delighted to be able to introduce them to the little restaurant he’d discovered.

"I wonder if they’ve got any of that Corton wine left," he thought. The great courtyard with its wooden panels engraved with Sirens and Tritons (a marvel, classified a work of art by the Council for Historic Monuments of Paris) opened and closed behind him with a faint creak. Once outside, Charlie was immediately plunged into impenetrable darkness but, feeling as happy and free as a twenty-year-old, he crossed the road without a care and headed for the quayside. He’d forgotten his torch, "But I know every step of the way in my neighbourhood," he said to himself. "All I have to do is follow the Seine and cross the Pont Marie. There won’t be many cars. And at the very moment he was mentally saying these words, a car passed two feet in front of him, going extremely fast, its headlights (painted blue in accordance with regulations) giving off only the faintest light. Startled, he jumped backwards, slipped, felt himself lose his balance, flailed his arms about and, finding nothing to grab on to, fell into the road.

The car swerved and a woman’s voice screamed in terror, "Watch out!"

It was too late.

"I’ve had it. I’m going to be run over! To have made it through so much danger to end up like this, it’s too . . . it’s too ridiculous . . .Someone’s playing a trick on me . . . Someone, somewhere is playing this horrible, bad trick on me. . ."

Just as a bird, terrified by a gunshot, flies out of its nest and disappears, so this final conscious thought went through Charlie’s mind and vanished at the same moment as his life. He took a terrible blow to the head, The car’s fender had shattered his skull. Blood and brains spurted out with such a force that a few drops landed on the woman who was driving – a pretty woman, wearing a hat, hardly bigger than a cocktail napkin, made of two sable skins sewn together and a russet veil over her golden hair, It was Arlette Corail, back from Bordeaux the week before. She looked down at the body. "What rotten luck, " she mumbled, devastated, "but really, what rotten luck!"

She was a cautious woman and had her torch with her. She examined the man’s face, at least what was left of it, and recognized Charles Langelet. "Oh, the poor guy! . . . I was going fast, all right, but he couldn’t have been paying attention, the silly fool! What am I going to do now?"

Nevertheless, she remembered that her insurance, license, pass, were all in order, and she knew someone influential who would fix everything for her. Somewhat reassured but her heart still pounding, she sat down for a moment on the car’s running board, lit a cigarette, fixed her make-up with trembling hand, then went to get help.




Adrienne Nater, 2008

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