Would you want to live forever? What would your spouse, your children, your friends mean to you if you knew you would outlive them all? Is our mortality a problem to be solved, or an indispensable ingredient in making life worth living?
These questions have long been debated by philosophers and bioethicists, but they are perhaps best explored though the medium of literature. That's exactly what bestselling novelist Dara Horn does in her latest book, Eternal Life. The book tells the tale of Rachel, a young women living in Roman-occupied Judea, who makes a trade with God: her sick child will live, but she will never die. As Rachel reflects on a lifetime of 45 marriages and hundreds of children, lived in many countries over thousands of years, she tries to understand what makes life worth living, and moves us to ponder the question along with her.
In this podcast, Dara Horn and Jonathan Silver discuss her novel. They explore the ways Eternal Life subverts age-old tropes about immortality in literature, the different ideas Rachel's entertains about the purpose of life, and how the life of this fictional woman who cannot die can help us think more profoundly about living and dying in the real world.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.