Browsing the archives for the death category.

Dostoevsky on almost dying

death, the "on" series, writers' lives

dostoevskyIn 1849 Fyodor Dostoevsky was arrested, along with the rest of the informal, progressive/revolutionary Petrashevsky Circle, which opposed the serf system and Tsarist rule. The members were to be executed - shot by a firing squad in threes. Dosty was in the second grouping, and as he watched the guns point at the first three, waiting for his turn, a stay of execution was given (they would be sent to hard labor in Siberia).

Upon returing to his cell, he wrote a letter to his brother. It read, in part:

When I look back on my past and think how much time I wasted on nothing, how much time has been lost in futilities, errors, laziness, incapacity to live; how little I appreciated it, how many times I sinned against my heart and soul - then my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness, every minute can be an eternity of happiness!

I am neither downhearted nor discouraged. Life is everywhere, life is in ourselves, not in the exterior. I shall have human beings around me, and to be a man among men and to remain one always, not to lose heart and not to give in no matter what occurs - that is what life is, that is its task, I have become aware of this. This idea has entered into my life and blood.

{quotes from Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal , 1850-1859.}

See also: Katherine Anne Porter on almost dying

Katherine Anne Porter on almost dying

death, the "on" series, writers' lives

In October 1918, Katherine Anne Porter nearly died from the Spanish flu during the pandemic. In a 1963 interview, she said:

It just simply divided my life, cut across it like that. So that everything before that was just getting ready, and after that I was in some strange way altered, ready. It took me a long time to go out and live in the world again. I was really ‘alienated,’ in the pure sense. It was, I think, the fact that I really had participated in death, that I knew what death was, and had almost experienced it. I had what the Christians call the ‘beatific vision,’ and the Greeks called the ‘happy day,’ the happy vision just before death. Now if you have had that, and survived it, come back from it, you are no longer like other people, and there’s no use deceiving yourself that you are.

Sing it, sister.

Premature obituaries


A fascinating article at Wikipedia: “List of premature obituaries.” A smattering of the dozens of entries:

ABBA: Members of the pop group were declared dead by a German Newspaper in 1976. It was claimed they had been killed in an aeroplane crash, with only member Anni-Frid Lyngstad surviving, but badly disfigured.[3] The group appeared on German television to disprove the rumour.

Pope Benedict XV, whose pneumonia in January 1922 caused worldwide expectation of his impending death. His death was prematurely announced by a New York newspaper with the front-page headline “Pope Benedict XV is dead”, followed by a later edition headlined “Pope has remarkable recovery.” However, the Pope did subsequently die of the illness on 22 January.

Lal Bihari, Indian founder of the Association of the Dead, an organisation which highlights the plight of people in Uttar Pradesh who are incorrectly declared dead by relatives in order to steal their land, usually in collusion with corrupt officials. Bihari himself was officially dead from 1976 to 1994 as a result of his uncle’s attempt to acquire his land. Among various attempts to publicize his situation and demonstrate that he was alive, he stood for election against Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 (and lost). He was awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for his ‘posthumous’ activities.

Nicephorus Glycas: in 1896, having presumably been declared dead, the Greek Orthodox bishop of Lesbos awoke in his coffin after he had been lying in state for two days. He sat up and asked what mourners were staring at.

Ernest Hemingway: after the author and his wife Mary Welsh Hemingway were involved in two African plane crashes in 1954, newspapers reported that both had died. Hemingway survived, but suffered extensive injuries which affected him for the rest of his life. AE Hotchner claimed that Hemingway read a scrap book of his obituaries every morning with a glass of champagne after the incident.[80] Hemingway committed suicide in 1961.[81]

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