Sunday, February 12

Arthur Koestler and Cynthia's suicide notes

Arthur and Cynthia few months before their suicide

This is the second suicide note I'm publishing and I intent to post another one. Virginia Woolf's was the first. I think that the silence about suicide, a taboo topic with the explanation that only by talking about it can trigger more suicides, must be broken.
When it comes to suicide three sentences are often heard:

"S/he was weak."
 "S/he was selfish."
 "S/he didn't think about the pain of their family."

There are other cliches sentences and moral judgments that I think we have to discuss because the number of people that are facing and struggling suicide ideation, including many teenagers, is huge and the pain they are facing is very hard to endure. Silencing about it makes it harder.
 First let's read some of the explanations in some suicide notes.

Arthur Koestler's suicide note:
"To whom it may concern. The purpose of this note is to make it unmistakably clear that I intend to commit suicide by taking an overdose of drugs without the knowledge or aid of any other person. The drugs have been legally obtained and hoarded over a considerable period. 
Trying to commit suicide is a gamble the outcome of which will be known to the gambler only if the attempt fails, but not if it succeeds. Should this attempt fail and I survive it in a physically or mentally impaired state, in which I can no longer control what is done to me, or communicate my wishes, I hereby request that I be allowed to die in my own home and not be resuscitated or kept alive by artificial means.
 I further request that my wife, or a physician, or any friend present, should invoke habeas corpus against any attempt to remove me forcibly from my house to hospital.
My reasons for deciding to put an end to my life are simple and compelling: Parkinson's Disease and the slow-killing variety of leukaemia (CCI). I kept the latter a secret even from intimate friends to save them distress. After a more or less steady physical decline over the last years, the process has now reached an acute state with added complications which make it advisable to seek self-deliverance now, before I become incapable of making the necessary arrangements.
I wish my friends to know that I am leaving their company in a peaceful frame of mind, with some timid hopes for a de-personalised after-life beyond due confines of space, time and matter and beyond the limits of our comprehension. This 'oceanic feeling' has often sustained me at difficult moments, and does so now, while I am writing this.
What makes it nevertheless hard to take this final step is the reflection of the pain it is bound to inflict on my surviving friends, above all my wife Cynthia. It is to her that I owe the relative peace and happiness that I enjoyed in the last period of my life – and never before."
The above note was dated June 1982. Below it appeared the following:

"Since the above was written in June 1982, my wife decided that after thirty-four years of working together she could not face life after my death."
Further down the page appeared Cynthia's own farewell note:
"I fear both death and the act of dying that lies ahead of us. I should have liked to finish my account of working for Arthur – a story which began when our paths happened to cross in 1949. However, I cannot live without Arthur, despite certain inner resources.
Double suicide has never appealed to me, but now Arthur's incurable diseases have reached a stage where there is nothing else to do."


Unknown said...

I just completed my complete collection of Koestler's work. Amazing man and wife. What a beautiful site you have! Thank you.

Ana said...

Thank you!

Michael said...

I am a big fan of Koestler, and can understand his desire to kill himself, but his wife’s note saddens me. I can’t help but think that Koestler could have waited for his wife to complete her work as she desired to. That would have been a more loving choice.

Ana said...

Hi Michael,
It is not easy to accept suicide...