Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jim Crace on Grass and the Death of an Atheist

March 29, 2010 on ABC Fora TV
How does an atheist commemorate death? When British author Jim Crace's staunchly atheist father died, he demanded that none of his family be present for the funeral or collect the ashes. In this talk at Adelaide Writers' Week, Jim Crace discusses why he regrets honouring his father's wishes. It was this dilemma that inspired him to write "Being Dead" a novel that seeks to find narratives of comfort in death that aren't bound to religion.

British author Jim Crace's first novel "Continent" was published in 1986, and won both the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Whitbread First Novel Award. Since then he had written eight more books, including "Quarantine" which was the winner of the 1998 Whitbread Novel of the Year award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. "Being Dead" won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction in 2000. His latest novel "All That Follows" was published in 2010.

Jane Sullivan is an Australian literary journalist and a regular contributor to The Age.


  1. I really thought Jim was slipping into a form of pantheism and we should just realise that death is meaningless for the atheist like every other part of life.

  2. Socrates was dying, and somebody asked, ”Are you not afraid, Socrates?” He said, ”Why should I be afraid, because I don’t know what is going to happen? First thing, maybe atheists are right.”
    He says, ”Maybe, perhaps, atheists are right and I will simply disappear. Then there is nobody left, so why fear? For whom to fear? There cannot be any anguish for me, because I will not be there. If atheists are right, then I will not be, and when I am not, fear cannot exist. I will not be tortured. Or maybe theists are right and I may continue, and if I continue, then why fear? I will be there. So I will see what happens, but I have not died yet. Wait, let me die. Only then will I know whether I survive or not.”
    This is pure rationalism. A rationalist cannot assert such things, that ”I don’t believe in a soul.”

  3. I'm sure Socrates would agree, "being dead" is a terrific oxymoron no matter how you slice it.