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The Savage God ; a Study of Suicide af A.…
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The Savage God ; a Study of Suicide (original 1971; udgave 1973)

af A. Alvarez

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
539834,895 (3.84)14
'To write about suicide . to transform the subject into something beautiful - this is the foreboding task that Alvarez set for himself . he has succeeded.' The New York Times
Medlem:w.h.auden
Titel:The Savage God ; a Study of Suicide
Forfattere:A. Alvarez
Info:Random House, 299 pp.
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

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The Savage God: A Study of Suicide af A. Alvarez (1971)

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Some bits were fantastic, others were slow and dry.
Largely enjoyed it though. ( )
  Septima | Aug 21, 2021 |
As one of the few holistic discussions of what is perhaps the one remaining taboo in our permissive society, Al Alvarez's book on suicide, The Savage God, is welcome even if just for its mere existence. Alvarez writes well and with compassion, particularly in the bookend chapters when he addresses the suicide of his friend Sylvia Plath and his own attempted suicide. In these chapters the book is an honest and erudite memoir, and very readable.

In between, however, are Marmite chapters addressing suicide more abstractly. Alvarez largely ignores the perhaps more fruitful psychological and philosophical discussion on self-slaughter in favour of the dense approach of literary criticism (the title of the book comes from a poem by Yeats). He looks into how suicide has been tackled in Western culture from Dante in the Middle Ages through to the modern, post-Nietzschean 'God is dead' West we are still trying to navigate nearly fifty years after Alvarez published his book. "Suicide has permeated western culture like a dye that cannot be washed out," he asserts on page 235, and like many others he struggles to isolate it from the fabric in order to understand it. At times it seems like there's so much to say about it that there's nothing to say about it.

The best that can be hoped for, it seems, are moments of "temporary clarity" much like the ones that even the most confused of suicides find when they make their choice (pg. 107). If there is, in life, only an "uneasy and perilous freedom" as an alternative to the artifices of religion, science and politics (pg. 150), then it is freedom nonetheless. This sort of cultural diagnosis may be off-putting for some, and certainly Alvarez's book becomes too focused on the suicidal and depressed artists and creatives ("the aristocrats of death," he quotes Daniel Stern on page 165, "God's graduate students, acting out their theses") rather than all the regular people who also commit suicide for many different reasons. This distorts his analysis, even if it is sometimes more interesting, but many people will have lost their way in the often dry literary criticism long before Alvarez starts talking about 'Arnoldian concepts' (pg. 275) like an academic monograph.

Nevertheless, he is always honest and compassionate – and, importantly, seeking. His observations are astute and his conclusion, insofar as he has one, hints at the problem of trying to be too definitive about the topic. Those who talk about it as a disease, he writes on page 307, are as puzzling as those who previously called it a sin; the closest thing that can be said with any proportionality is that it is a "terrible but utterly natural reaction to the strained, narrow, unnatural necessities we sometimes create for ourselves". Perhaps when this lucid (and daunting) diagnosis is more widely accepted in our culture – which still seems trapped in the 'mental illness' whirligig (gotta keep those pill companies solvent, young men of the West!) – perhaps then we finally begin to discuss, cleanly and honestly, our last great taboo. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Feb 6, 2020 |
(Original Review, 2002)

“Suicide is, after all, the result of a choice. However impulsive the action and confused the motives, at the moment when a man finally decides to take his own life he achieves a certain temporary clarity. Suicide may be a declaration of bankruptcy which passes judgment on a life as one long history of failure. But it is a decision which, by its very finality, is not wholly a failure. There is, I believe, a whole class of suicides who take their own lives not in order to die but to escape confusion, to clear their heads. They deliberately use suicide to create an unencumbered reality for themselves or to break through the patterns of obsession and necessity which they have unwittingly imposed on their lives.”

In “The Savage God - A Study of Suicide” by Al Alvarez

Hughes and Plath were two big poetic figures maybe too alike in their creative powers that sooner or later one had to give way. Hughes wrote some good poetry like “Hawk in the Rain” and “Lupercal”, drawing on a mytho-poetic creation of nature. Hughes was a broody Yorkshireman who grew up in Mythlmroyd, near Hardcastle Crags, he avoided the type of poetry turned out by the Movement poets and Alvarez wrote a piece on this called "Against the Gentility Principle" as an intro to a book of poetry. Alvarez also wrote "The Savage God": A Study of Suicide", has permeated Western culture like a dye that cannot be washed out." Although the aims of this compelling, compassionate work are broadly cultural and literary, the narrative is rooted in personal experience: it begins with a long memoir of Sylvia Plath, and ends with an account of the author's own suicide attempt. Within this dramatic framework, Alvarez launches his inquiry into the final taboo of human behaviour, and traces changing attitudes towards suicide from the perspective of literature. He follows the black thread leading from Dante through Donne and the romantic agony, to the “Savage God” at the heart of modern literature. ( )
  antao | Oct 29, 2018 |
A rather personal but detailed study of suicide by a man whose life has been marled by it; he investigates it historically, theoretically and empirically -- he knew Plath and tried to tale his own life. Rather more insightful.than Minois. ( )
  noonaut | Jan 19, 2017 |
A literary and philosophical investigation on death and suicide, but this is something much more than that. This is a deeply personal book, and does not seem clinical or insensitive.

The book begins with a suicide and ends with an attempt. Sylvia Plath, the great tragedy of her death - and our dear author, who has mercifully survived, if only to tell us about this torment.

Sandwiched in between these very personal stories is a careful and tender analysis of the myths, beliefs, and possible grasping and contradictory attempts at understanding suicide. The curious contradictions of statistics - suicide rates are highest in post-Soviet countries, South Korea, Japan, and northern Europe - and lowest in Haiti, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Is it solely a factor of weather? Perhaps not - the majority of suicides are in May, and often on Wednesdays.

Next the three categories of suicide - as sacrifice, as way of escaping from physical sickness, as act of despair.

After this, historical attitudes, and suicide as literature. The Ancient classical societies recognized it as sacrifice, perhaps. So did the early Christians, who praised the defiant martyrs. By the Middle Ages, self-death, self-murder, was a grave sin. Dante consigned suicides to the 7th Circle of the Inferno, turned into trees and eaten by Harpies. The Romantics again respected the artists and creators who fell to suicide - The Sorrows of Young Werther spawned copypcats - and the Dadaists worshiped it. Death as an art itself. Radical political groups still do. Sacrifice for the nation, for an idea, a race, a belief.

The trend of the creator and self-destroyer continues today. Plath, John Berryman, Hunter S. Thompson, David F. Wallace. Part of a thorned lineage dating to Socrates. Alvarez postulates long and hard upon this bitter connection.

This is a deeply honest book, which will provide comfort and something like understanding to the sufferer, the mourner, and the mourner alike. Suicide today is still seldom spoken of, and Alvarez speaks of it with candor and sympathy. All the better for us all. ( )
1 stem HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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'To write about suicide . to transform the subject into something beautiful - this is the foreboding task that Alvarez set for himself . he has succeeded.' The New York Times

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