Survival means living but more. It means staying alive but more than that too. Survival means living beyond something that killed someone else or might have killed you. In some basic way, I suppose, it must be the theme of all our lives, every day, but we don’t tend to think about it all that much.
‘How are you doing?’
and we laugh, as if surviving was no mean feat. Most days, we take survival for granted but, somedays, it’s all we can manage.
Survival. The state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.
survive (v.) mid-15c. “to outlive, continue in existence after the death of another,” originally in the legal (inheritance) sense, from Anglo-French survivre, Old French souvivre (12c., Modern French survivre), from Latin supervivere “live beyond, live longer than,” from super “over, beyond”.
Postcards by E. Annie Proulx.
Loyal Blood killed his girlfriend. From that moment he is an exile from his home, his family, from life as he knew it. Accident, ordeal and difficult circumstances are all he knows. He survives in an inescapable purgatory.
The family Loyal leaves behind can’t survive without him. The lives of his father, brother, mother and sister fracture and, with varying degrees of resistance, disintegrate.
This book is as miserable as hell. I lost count of how many suicides there were although I did have to laugh out loud at the one who,
‘left a three-hundred-twelve-page suicide note behind. Started it seven months before he did the dirty deed.’
The characters are beautifully drawn and so realistic I was compelled to read to the very last page. I needed to know the worst that could befall these people but it wasn’t good for me.
It’s a good book. It’s funny but joyless. It’s sad but tearless. It’s about being strong and losing anyway. It’s about survival but only just.
Station Eleven by Emily St.John Mandel.
It all begins with a ‘flu’ pandemic.
I usually avoid movies and books that propose doomsday scenarios. I excel at anxiety and don’t need help imagining the worst but I was intrigued by the idea of a post-apocalyptic Shakespearian troupe bringing art and music to people whose lives have been stripped back to the bare essentials.
This is a pretty decent book. It’s a page-turner. The plot is rich and compelling. I think the cast may be too large and the character development spread a little thinly. There needed to be fewer people or more book. It’s a pity because it was easy and enjoyable to read.
I like that science fiction often tackles the biggest questions.
‘Because survival is insufficient’.
The author concedes that the takeaway line from the book is lifted from Star Trek. I’ve no problem with that. It’s a good line. Surviving, staying alive, is good but not good enough. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? The something more than survival. The answer to ‘what’s it all for?’
The Humans by Matt Haig.
This one. This book has the answer.
I want to tell you everything. Every joke. Every heart-squeezing line of pure truth.
Matt Haig reduces everything, all the complexity and confusion, to something we can understand. And more, to something we can believe in. And even more than that, to something we can live by.
This book is more than a feat of imagination. It is a perfect thing.
Read it. Please. You will learn something. You will feel better. You will feel great.
The book made me laugh out loud and the acknowledgements made me cry. That’s a new one.
I’m going out now to buy everything Matt Haig has ever written. He has given me new hope.
But what’s it about, I hear you ask. It’s about a being of superior knowledge who came from heaven to save us and gave up immortality to be like us. Happy Easter.