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Being Dead by Jim Crace

Being Dead (1999)

by Jim Crace

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,349448,911 (3.81)90



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» See also 90 mentions

English (42)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
2.5 A meditation on the lives of the two murder victims with strong first chapters that meanders in later sections. ( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
Gets 4 stars for the language and for the subject matter and characterisation. Also a great sense of place, which is strange because for a long time I thought it was America yet we find out the one place it is not is USA. So I am left with feeling I know the place well yet have no idea where on the planet it is! ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
I liked this book very much, but if you don't care to read a clinical discussion of what happens to a dead body as it decomposes, you might want to skip this one. If such descriptions don't bother you, I highly recommend this book.

Celice and Joseph, married scientists in their 50's decide to take a sentimental day trip to the beach where they met and fell in love. As the last sentence of the first chapter states, "They paid a heavy price for their nostalgia," for by page 5, they have been brutally murdered in the dunes. Their bodies lay undiscovered, Joseph's hand tenderly grasping Celice's ankle, for days. In alternating chapters we are told the story of their life and given a day-by-day description of what happens to their bodies after death.

This book is beautifully written, and the scientific descriptions of decay meld perfectly with the intellectually curious scientific characters of Joseph and Celice. Here is the poem by Sherwin Stephens, "The Biologist's Valediction to His Wife," which is set forth on the frontispiece of this book:

Don't count on Heaven, or on Hell
You're dead. That's it. Adieu. Farewell.
Eternity awaits? Oh, sure!
It's Putrefaction and Manure
And unrelenting Rot, Rot, Rot,
As you regress, from Zoo. to Bot.
I'll grieve, of course,
Departing wife,
Though Grieving's never
Lengthened Life
Or coaxed a single extra Breath
Out of a Body touched by Death ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 24, 2017 |
I read this years ago, and I just finished rereading it AND it's a perfect book (and quite creepy) for me. ( )
  jphamilton | May 29, 2015 |
When anyone asks me, "What is your favorite book?", I do not hesitate before saying, Being Dead by Jim Crace. It's been my favorite since the moment I finished it years ago.

This is a book with alternating storylines involving the same characters, Joseph and Celice, a married couple who, at the beginning of the book, have gone to visit the same beach where they first made love 30 years earlier and are murdered. Interesting that the main characters die in the beginning? I thought so. And one of the storylines deals with the couple's murder.

The first storyline takes the reader from the murder, through an hour by hour, day by day, journey through what happens to their corpses as the lay on the sand dunes, decaying for several days before being found. Does that seem morbid or uncomfortable? You might think so, but Crace writes it so well that it's simply fascinating.

The second storyline is a backwards history of the couple's life together, starting with the trip to the beach and going backwards through their lives together, and then further back to their childhoods.

The most wonderful thing happens in this novel. These are average, ordinary people and spending so much time contemplating their deaths and the decaying of their bodies might well cause a reader to feel apprehensive or uncomfortable. We're human. We can't help but consider our own deaths and what will someday happen to our bodies while reading this. But, Crace sets up the structure in such a way that there is this wonderful "relief" for the reader. You get a break from the dead bodies decaying, from the murder and the detectives, and you get to read this hopeful story in reverse - a story that gets more youthful and more hopeful as the characters grow younger, so that, by the end of the book, it doesn't feel like Joseph and Celice are dead at all. It feels like they are young and vibrant and have their whole lives ahead of them with no knowledge of what the future holds. It made me realize that part of the joy of youth is that mystery ahead, all the "possibility" that lies before each of us; all the questions and dreams.

This is a fabulous and unique novel and I enjoyed it thoroughly. ( )
  HighCountry | Mar 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Yet for all the "experimental" feel that he imparts to his work, the fact is that, to say it again, Crace is working firmly within the mainstream of English fiction, and a good thing that is, for English fiction, at least. A solid yet always adventurous writer, he has done much to revitalize a tradition in danger of becoming moribund.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, John Banville (pay site) (Apr 13, 2000)

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Crace, Jimprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ahlers, WalterÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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          Oh, sure!
It's Putrefaction and Manure
And unrelenting Rot, Rot, Rot
As you regress, from Zoo. to Bot.
I'll Grieve, of course,
Departing wife,
Though Grieving's never
Lengthened Life
Or coaxed a single extra Breath
Out of a Body touched by Death

'The Biologist's Valediction to his Wife'
from Offcuts by Sherwin Stephens
For Pam Turton
First words
For old times' sake, the doctors of zoology had driven out of town that Tuesday afternoon to make a final visit to the singing salt dunes at Baritone Bay.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
On Baritone Bay, in mid-afternoon, Joseph and Celice, married for almost thirty years, lie murdered in the dunes. The shocking particulars of their passing make up the arc of this courageous and haunting novel. The story of life, mortality, and love, Being Dead confirms Crace's place as one of our most talented, compassionate, and itellectually provocative writers. (on book back)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312275420, Paperback)

Penzler Pick, June 2000: It begins with a murder. Celice and Joseph, in their mid-50s and married for more than 30 years, are returning to the seacoast where they met as students. They are reliving their first amorous encounter in the sand dunes when they are set upon by the murderer who beats them to death with a rock and steals their watches, their jewelry, and even their meager lunch. From that moment forward, this remarkably written book by Jim Crace becomes less about murder and more about death. Alternating chapters move back in time from the murder in hourly and two-hourly increments. As the narrative moves backward, we see Celice and Joseph make the small decisions about their day that will lead them inexorably towards their own deaths. Eventually we learn about their first meeting, and that this is not the first time tragedy has struck them in this idyllic setting.

In other chapters the narrative moves forward. Celice and Joseph are on vacation and nobody misses them until they do not return. Thus, it is six days before their bodies are found. Crace describes in minute detail their gradual return to the land with the help of crabs, birds, and the numerous insects that attack the body and gently and not so gently prepare it for the dust-to-dust phase of death. Celice and Joseph would have been delighted with the description: she was a zoologist and he was an oceanographer, and they spent their lives with their eyes to the microscope, observing the phenomena of life and death. Some readers might find this gruesome, but the facts of death are told in such glorious prose that these descriptions in no way detract from the enjoyment of the book.

After her parents do not return home, their daughter, Syl, must search the morgues and follow up John and Jane Doe reports until she is finally asked to make an identification of the remains in the dunes. We then discover that the reader has had a more intimate relationship with them in death than Syl ever had with them in life. This small gem of a book, not really a mystery in the usual sense, will stay with you long after you finish. --Otto Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:39 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"An extraordinarily moving love story" (Observer) A couple lie naked in the dunes at Baritone Bay, at the spot where, almost thirty years before, they had first had sex as students. Nostalgia has sent Celice and Joseph back to their singing stretch of coast, but in the seeming calm of the afternoon they meet a brutal and unexpected fate - one which will still their bodies but not their love, and certainly not their story.

» see all 4 descriptions

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