Wednesday, July 12, 2023

the unbreathable lightness of not being

Hot on the heels of Cormac McCarthy's demise comes the death of Czech novelist Milan Kundera. Long-standing consumers of my ghoulish authorial-death-related output may remember that, while I feel it's slightly beyond the pale to keep some sort of official Dead Pool list of who I think might be next, I have nevertheless speculated on the subject in the past to the extent of offering up a list of authors whose books have featured on the list, are alive, and are quite old, in a not wishing ill on anyone but Just Saying sort of way, and that Kundera's name has featured, and no wonder as I think he is (or was) the oldest living author on the list.

Kundera featured here twice, in 2008 and 2016 with The Unbearable Lightness Of Being and The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting respectively. Those are probably his two best-known books, the first being made into a film in the 1980s. The Unbearable Lightness Of Being is probably the one to go for, but he had a substantial body of other work that I haven't read.

Anyway, here's the updated list. You might remember that when Alison Lurie died a couple of years back I confidently announced that she was the oldest curse victim at the age of 95. I'm not sure why I did this, because the obituary I linked to specifically says she was 94, and so she was. I'll leave the original post as-is as a monument to my carelessness, but I've corrected her age in the table here. The reason this is relevant (other than a general desire for accuracy) is that Kundera was also 94, as was Doris Lessing when she died back in 2013. So who was oldest? Well, I can reveal that I've done the maths, or, rather, got Excel to do the maths for me, and the result is that Kundera was older than Lurie by a mere 9 days, with Lessing a comparative spring chicken at 74 days younger. 

Kundera also smashes the record for longest curse length at over fifteen years, ending Cormac McCarthy's brief posthumous ownership of the title.

Author Date of first book Date of death Age Curse length
Michael Dibdin 31st January 2007 30th March 2007 60 0y 59d
José Saramago 9th May 2009 18th June 2010 87 1y 40d
Beryl Bainbridge 14th May 2008 2nd July 2010 77 2y 50d
Russell Hoban 23rd August 2010 13th December 2011 86 1y 113d
Richard Matheson 7th September 2011 23rd June 2013 87 1y 291d
Iain Banks 6th November 2006 9th June 2013 59 6y 218d
Elmore Leonard April 16th 2009 20th August 2013 87 4y 128d
Doris Lessing 8th May 2007 17th November 2013 94 6y 196d
Gabriel García Márquez 10th July 2007 17th April 2014 87 6y 284d
Ruth Rendell 23rd December 2009 2nd May 2015 85 5y 132d
James Salter 4th February 2014 19th June 2015 90 1y 136d
David Cook 24th February 2009 16th September 2015 74 6y 205d
Henning Mankell 6th May 2013 5th October 2015 67 2y 152d
William McIlvanney 7th September 2010 5th December 2015 79 5y 90d
Umberto Eco 30th June 2012 19th February 2016 84 3y 234d
Anita Brookner 15th July 2011 10th March 2016 87 4y 240d
William Trevor 29th May 2010 20th November 2016 88 6y 177d
John Berger 10th November 2009 2nd January 2017 90 7y 55d
Nicholas Mosley 24th September 2011 28th February 2017 93 5y 159d
Helen Dunmore 10th March 2008 5th June 2017 64 9y 89d
JP Donleavy 21st May 2015 11th September 2017 91 2y 114d
Ursula Le Guin 6th December 2015 22nd January 2018 88 2y 49d
Anita Shreve 2nd September 2006 29th March 2018 71 11y 211d
Philip Roth 23rd December 2017 22nd May 2018 85 0y 150d
Justin Cartwright 7th September 2008 3rd December 2018 75 10y 89d
Toni Morrison 18th July 2010 5th August 2019 88 9y 20d
Charles Portis 3rd April 2018 17th February 2020 86 1y 320d
Alison Lurie 24th March 2007 3rd December 2020 94 13y 254d
John le Carré 21st February 2008 12th December 2020 89 12y 295d
Joan Didion 14th December 2010 23rd December 2021 87 11y 12d
Hilary Mantel 22nd October 2010 22nd September 2022 70 11y 338d
Greg Bear 4th October 2021 19th November 2022 71 1y 48d
Russell Banks 4th December 2018 7th January 2023 82 4y 35d
Cormac McCarthy 22nd September 2009 13th June 2023 89 13y 265d
Milan Kundera 27th March 2008 11th July 2023 94 15y 105d

No comments: