… by the suicide of Princeton economist Alan Krueger at 58. It will perhaps be seen as an iconic death, carrying most powerfully within it horrible truths about the ultimate incorrigibility of some forms of clinical depression. His was as far as one could tell one of the golden lives: Brilliant, athletic, handsome, wealthy, esteemed by presidents, rich in friends and family. A “gentle, generous guy.” And still the mind has mountains.

 O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall 
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap 
May who ne’er hung there.

********************

After decades of reading, writing, and thinking about suicide, I’ve gathered a few statements about it that feel right to me.

Boris Pasternak wrote:

We have no conception of the inner torture which precedes suicide.

… The continuity of his inner life is broken, his personality is at an end. And perhaps what finally makes him kill himself is not the firmness of his resolve but the unbearable quality of this anguish which belongs to no one, of this suffering in the absence of the sufferer, of this waiting which is empty because life has stopped and can no longer fill it.

… What is certain is that they all suffered beyond description, to the point where suffering has become a mental sickness. And as we bow in homage to their gifts and to their bright memory, we should bow compassionately before their suffering.

Philip Roth wrote:

What was astonishing to him was how people seemed to run out of their own being, run out of whatever the stuff was that made them who they were and, drained of themselves, turn into the sort of people they would have once have felt sorry for. It was as though while their lives were rich and full they were secretly sick of themselves and couldn’t wait to dispose of their sanity and their health and all sense of proportion so as to get down to that other self, the true self, who was a wholly deluded fuckup. It was as though being in tune with life was an accident that might sometimes befall the fortunate young but was otherwise something for which human beings lacked any real affinity. How odd. And how odd it made him seem to be numbered among the countless unembattled normal ones might, in fact, be the abnormality, a stranger from real life because of his being so sturdily rooted.

***********************

August Kleinzahler’s comment on his wild and brilliant brother, who killed himself at 27: “He wasn’t made for the long haul. Not everyone is.”

************************

This poem by Donald Justice is very much in line with Pasternak and Roth:

For The Suicides of 1962

in memory: J & G

If we recall your voices
As softer now, it’s only
That they must have drifted back

A long way to have reached us
Here, and upon such a wind
As crosses the high passes.

Nor does the blue of your eyes
(Remembered) cast much light on
The page ripped from the tablet.

*

Once there in the labyrinth,
You were safe from your reasons.
We stand, now, at the threshold,

Peering in, but the passage,
For us, remains obscure; the
Corridors are still bloody.

*

What you meant to prove you have
Proved: we did not care for you
nearly enough. Meanwhile the

Bay was preparing herself
To receive you, the for once
Wholly adequate female

To your dark inclinations;
Under your care, the pistol
Was slowly learning to flower

In the desired explosion
Disturbing the careful part
And the briefly recovered

Fixed smile of a forgotten
Triumph; deep within the black
Forest of childhood that tree

Was already rising which,
With the length of your body,
Would cast the double shadow.

*

The masks by which we knew you
Have been torn from you. Even
Those mirrors, to which always

You must have turned to confide,
Cannot have recognized you,
Stripped, as you were, finally.

At the end of your shadow
There sat another, waiting,
Whose back was always to us.

*

When the last door had been closed,
You watched, inwardly raging,
For the first glimpse of your selves
Approaching, jangling their keys.

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