Quentin Crisp reflects on his own death in excerpt from final autobiography
PinkNews brings you the third of four exclusive extracts from the Last Word by Quentin Crisp, the final installment of his autobiography.
What follows is the third of four exclusive extracts from The Last Word by Quentin Crisp, the final installment of his autobiography, written in the last years of Crisp’s life, published in Europe and North America by MB Books and available to buy on Amazon.
Chapter 17: My Significant Death
A significant death is a death which somehow gets into everybody’s mind so that nobody says, “Isn’t he dead? I thought he was dead.” You want to die in such a way that everyone knows and remembers your death. This means you have to die by yourself.
You don’t want to die on the same day somebody of significance dies. Princess Diana died at the same moment that Mother Teresa died, and somehow it all got muddled up and they both became saints at the same moment. Had Diana died on a different day there might have been a more sensible assessment of her character.
I don’t mind what season I die in or what place. People don’t seem to like it when people die alone. I remember once praising Ms. Crawford and someone in the audience said, “You praise her, but she died alone and an alcoholic.” What’s wrong with dying alone? If you die in the presence of other people you have to be polite and die. That seems to me to add insult to injury.
I would like to die alone in my room. Somebody died in one of the other rooms of my building and they were found the very next day. I don’t know what caused anyone to look in their room and find them lying on the floor, but something did. I suppose if I didn’t answer the telephone people would eventually come knocking at my door and when I didn’t open it they might conclude that I was dead.
The other day I received a letter saying I was a fraud. That I longed for death but kept on living. I can see their point. It’s not that I’m a fraud however, it’s that I’m not capable of the suicide that would bring my life to a close. I couldn’t inflict violence upon myself or pain.
I used to know a lady who hanged herself. That must take hours to die. You tie something around your neck and then you hang it on a hook and you jump off a chair. But you don’t die for hours. It can’t be a pleasant way to go and yet that’s what she did. She was about forty, I suppose. I never dreamed she would do such a thing. I knew she was unhappy, but I didn’t know she was as desperate as that. Her suicide occurred over twenty years ago when I was living in England.
I had hoped Mr. Clinton would declare a limit on the number of days we are allowed to live, but he didn’t. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that, at the age of say, seventy-five, you would receive a telegram from the White House saying, “We congratulate you on reaching your seventy-fifth birthday and hope to see you in the Forgetting Chamber at 4:30 p.m.” Then an unmarked van would arrive, you would get into it and be taken to the town hall and put to sleep the way animals are.
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