The eleventh of September, 2012: the last letter, and all the postmen

I started today with one of those moments of false déjà vu that occur when, in reading a book you haven’t read before, you come across a passage that is dimly familiar.

A man who has decided upon self-destruction is far removed from mundane affairs, and to sit down and write his will would be, at that moment, an act just as absurd as winding up his watch, since, together with the man, the whole world is destroyed; the last letter is instantly reduced to dust and, with it, all the postmen.

From Nabokov’s The Eye (Panther, 1968). This is such an exceptional piece of writing that it would have stood out even if I hadn’t come across it before – but I had, in Martin Amis’s memoir Experience (Cape, 2000), where Amis discusses the suicide of Lamorna, the mother of his daughter Delilah.

‘The writer is the opposite of suicide,’ Amis concludes. Of suicide, he says: ‘It’s not in me to pass any judgment on it. It escapes morality.’


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