Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Helen Small, 'The Long Life'

A fascinating literary and philosophical meditation on ageing and the end of life. I came to it through the bibliography of Margaret Drabble's latest novel 'The Dark Flood Rises', which itself deals, not with ageing exactly, but with late life. Helen Small parallels 'The Old Curiosity Shop' with 'King Lear', and Aristotle with Samuel Beckett. She notes that ageing and the old person are not much dealt with in literature, but that it is often through literature that we come to our view of the world and our place in it and in our lives, especially as those lives lengthen. She discusses most interestingly the notion of life as a narrative, and wonders therefore which parts of that narrative are the most important and valuable, and thus worth giving the most attention and resources to. In short, do we live our lives preparing for a good old age? Answer, no, or not perhaps until the generation (mine) that is now preparing to be old. And should we? And if we develop dementia and can no longer grasp the concept of our lives as narrative, are those lives thereby worth less, for example in terms of whether life-extending medical treatment should be extended to us?
Small, Helen. The Long Life (p. 115). OUP Oxford. Édition du Kindle.

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