Friday, September 10, 2010

Authors' Last Chapters

After writing about Ernest Hemingway I began to wonder what is it with writers and suicide. Is it because writing in such a solitary life. Is it because writer have to examine human psychology. Creativity came with a high prices for the following authors:

Sylvia Plath(1932-1963) is the first author I think of when discussing suicidal authors. She was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Following a long struggle with depression, Plath committed suicide; the events of which are still controversial. I know of a few people who refuse to read her husband’s, Ted Hughes, work due to this. Their son, Nicholas, as well as Hughes’ partner, Assia Wevill also committed suicide. Plath’s most famous work, "The Bell Jar" is a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death. As Plath has stated " what I’ve done is to throw together events from my own life, fictionalising to add color - it’s a pot boiler really, but it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown....I’ve tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen through the distorting lens of a bell jar."

Yukio Mishima (1925-1970) committed an "honourable" suicide, (if ever it can be called that). In 1970 Mishima and four of his followers (of his private force called the Shield Society) took over Toyoko JSDF headquarters. Mishima was demanding the restoration of the power of the Japanese Emperor. At the end of the siege he committed seppuku. This is also known as harakiri, a ritual suicide by self-disembowelment by sword practiced by samurai. I must admit he is one author I found out about through a movie. I saw a movie adaption of his book, The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea. It is the tale of Ryuji, a sailor who feels there is a special honour awaiting him at sea. When he marries Fusako he is torn away from his dreams. Fusako’s son, Noboru, hates Ryuji because he has given up his dreams die. This leads to terrible savage acts done by Noboru and his gang.

Jerzy Kosinski (1933-1991) born Jozef Lewinkopf in Poland in 1933, changed his name to avoid capture from the Germans. In 1965 he published, The Painted Bird, a highly controversial tale of a boy’s experience in War World II Europe. People panned his work due to the violent, sexual and sadistic plots he wrote. It is said that the stress of this criticism combined with a physical illness lead to his death. His note stated "I am going to put myself to sleep now for a bit longer than usual. Call it eternity"

Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005). Oh! what to say about this gonzo journalist! Hunter wrote his articles in a style that is not usually associated with journalism. He wrote in a highly subjective way, often inserting in his own (often drug idled) experience. Thompson suffered from various medical problems which might have factored in his suicide. On February 20th, 2005, despite having company in the next room, he shot his brains out. Before the suicide his wife received a note stating "no more games, no more bombs, no more walking, no more fun....67. That is 17 years past 50, 17 more than I needed or wanted....Act your old age. Relax –This won’t hurt". I find it ironic that given this statement, Hunters ashes were placed in a cannon and shot into the air!

Others authors who have committed suicide include :
John Kennedy Toole
David Foster Wallace
Virginia Woolf
Spalding Gray
Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Richard Brautigan
Anne Sexton

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