A Life Without End by Frederic Beigbeder and Frank Wynne (translator)
|A Life Without End by Frederic Beigbeder and Frank Wynne (translator)|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A strong amalgam of science fiction, science reportage and memoir, that does perhaps go on too much of a personal trip to reveal its narrative as easily as it should, but is worth a look.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 340||Date: April 2020|
|Publisher: World Editions Ltd|
I looked at the calendar the other week, and disappointedly realised I have a birthday this year – I know, yet another one. It won't be one of the major numbers, but the time when I have the same number as Heinz varieties looms on the horizon. And then a few of the big 0-numbers, and if all goes well, I'll be an OBE. (Which of course stands for Over Bloody Eighty.) Now if that's the extent of my mid-life crisis, I guess I have to be happy. Our author here doesn't use that exact phrase, but he might be said to be living one. Determined to find out how to prolong life for as long as he wants – he would like to see 400 – he hops right into bed with the assistant to the first geneticist he interviews, and they end up with a child, which is at least a way of continuing the life of his genes, and a motive to keep on going. But how can he get to not flick the 'final way out' switch, especially when foie gras tastes so nice?
This intriguing piece is called 'science non-fiction', for all the boffins involved are taken very much from real life, and all the interviews and medical tests have been performed. This IS a picture of our author's heart. So in what way is this fictional? Well, I guessed the drug-addled Youtube interview channel he declares to have, and the films he allegedly made, were not the real thing, but on the whole it's a close approximation, and I assume the milieu of the character (and his beard) are shared with the author. However it certainly, especially with the introduction of a Japanese character, becomes a lot more obviously fantasy.
Before then it certainly has a feel, in this translation at least, of being a memoir – we get a quite genial, chatty delivery. It really does read as the confessional of a man who is on this drive, not doing so in order to write a book but to genuinely try his best to outstay the three score years and ten his welcome would normally last for. That drive does kind of put a few too many longueurs on to these pages, as perhaps too much verity and faithfulness to verbatim reportage gets in the way of what proves to be the story. There certainly is a bit of wit here, although not anything like the numerous promises of humour – the best line regarded the angst in ageing felt by us men on the cusp of turning 50, when you pass a girl in the street, you don't turn around for fear of getting a crick in your neck. Finally, it's not the great book it wants to be – that would have needed to make anybody, whether interested in this topic or not, fascinated by all the potentialities. But this for the right reader is a quirky success.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Everywhere we look we see 'posthumans'. Sunlight 24 by Merritt Graves is one of the many books that don't look at eternal life, but certainly ultra-enhanced humans.
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