On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death

On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death

“… a moving, deep series of insights into the suicide’s world… ” — Kirkus Reviews

Jean Améry (Auschwitz survivor and author of At the Mind’s Limits) thought of On Suicide as a continuation of the kind of reflections on mortality he had laid down in On Aging. But here he probes further and more deeply into the meaning of death and into the human capacity for suicide or voluntary death.

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2 Comments so far »

  1. Campbell Roark "tri-zeta" said,

    Wrote on December 4, 2011 @ 8:55 am

    21 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    The Kirkus Review is not-so accurate. But still…, September 28, 2004
    Campbell Roark “tri-zeta” (from under the floorboards and through the woods…) –

    This review is from: On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death (Hardcover)

    It could be worse, like the hatchet job below that prompted me to write this. First things first: anyone who is pretentious/affectatious enough to quote Nietzsche solely in his original German- a quote that is all the more obscure for its reference to ‘Seneca and his ilk,’ (the title) and its borrowing of a Latin coin of phrase- has already demonstrated his bad faith. I’m talking about the next reviewer. You see; he’s not assuming that you will posses a working knowledge of German so that you will catch his all-too-coy reference. He simply wants to intimidate you with his high and mighty linguistic flourishes. “I CAN QUOTE NIETZSCHE IN THE ORIGINAL AREN”T I SO FRIKKIN SMART NOW YOU HAVE TO SUBSCRIBE TO MY INTELLECTUAL OPINIONS!!! He seems to scream.

    He comes not to discuss but to brag and condescend- he doesn’t give an accurate rendering of Amery’s book, he merely reveals the depths of his own extremely beknighted ‘Weltanshaaung.’ Here is the translation of said piece, from “The Joyful Science,” (a wonderful book and one deserving of a better reader) It is the 34th song,

    “They write and write their intolerably sagacious Larifari,
    As if it ‘gaelt primum scribere,
    Deinde philosophari.’ (meaning ‘first to write then to philosophize.’)

    IMHO, the statement applies far more readily to the reviewer employing it than the book he reviews. Yes, Amery attempted suicide before writing this and then ended up succeeding some time after. Yes, Amery does employ a pseudo-existentialist vocabulary in order to make sense of his predicament. But he has no pretense that he speaks for mankind. He simply dislikes the various ways in which society seeks to make sense/marginalize/cure the phenomenon of suicide, and he espouses a different tact, in understanding it. He believes that the act is one a person can approach and commit with dignity and clear-mindedness. Make what you will of that. It calls to mind the opening chapter of Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” which is, at heart, another mediation on suicide, albeit from a different perspective again.

    His suicide in no means destroys or stains his observations and ideas. I have all three of Amery’s books, and I unhesitatingly recommend each one. I’m not planning on killing myself, and my feelings on the subject are ambivalent. Still, I find J. Amery to be refreshingly clear, immediate and concise. He avoids jargoneering and tendentiousness, and never stoops to pathos. He writes in a persuasive and at times subtly humorous fashion. He isn’t trying to get the world to kill itself en masse, and he’s not trying to get your child to put its head in an oven. He simply wants to discuss and examine, as objectively as possible (though he admits that it is not) the idea that life (under certain conditions) may not be worth living. This is one of the few books on suicide that actually had a great deal of profundity. Worth the read.

    The third reviewer is also spot-on… I would also recommend A. Alvarez’ “The Savage God,” for a book that seeks to confront artistic self-destruction, among other things. “In Darkness,” by James A. Wechsler is another book that approaches the phenomena from a familial point of view.

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  2. Pam "Pam" said,

    Wrote on December 4, 2011 @ 9:27 am

    2 of 25 people found the following review helpful:
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death, December 19, 2005
    Pam “Pam” (UK) –

    This review is from: On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death (Hardcover)

    There are other options, other possibilities. If you like this book, you will probably like the poetry of Sylvia Plath (I do) – although defined by her suicide attempts and her final “success” – it has meant that Plath’s work has been mostly “defined” by her actions, rather than letting the work define itself – so this has limited the potential reading of her work and has limited the reader’s perspectives of it , which is a real shame. If all roads lead to loss of life through choice, then you have not looked at other routes. I would urge readers to look at this as just an intellectual debate, rather than as a self justification for self-annihilation/destruction. Suicide is selfish, no matter how you dress it up. It is the ultimate selfish act. There is always hope, it is just sometimes very hard to see – something worth remembering when reading this book. Life is a choice and it is hard work – but there are benefits longer term. Don’t give up, you are needed here – you might not really believe it but you are. You have yet more to achieve.

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