One of my favorite authors: Nadine Gordimer, from an interview in The Paris Review
Do you have a fascination with death?
Not consciously, but then . . . how can any thinking person not have? Death is really the mystery of life, isn’t it? If you ask, “What happens when we die? Why do we die?” you are asking, “Why do we live?” Unless one has a religion . . . Without a religious explanation, one has only the Mount Everest argument: “I climb it because it’s there. I live because there is the gift of life.” It’s not an answer, really, it’s an evasion. Or, “I think my purpose on this earth is to make life better.” Progress is the business of making life more safe and more enjoyable . . . fuller, generally. But that justification, it stops short of death, doesn’t it? The only transcendent principle is that you are then seeking to improve the human lot for future generations. But we still don’t get past the fact that it’s a turnabout business; it’s your turn and then it’s mine, and life is taken up by somebody else. Human beings are never reconciled to this. In my own life I am made puzzled and uneasy by my attitude and that of others to death. If somebody dies young it’s so terrible, it’s such a tragedy, and the sense of waste is so strong; you think of all the promise that was there. And then if people live into old age, there’s the horror of decay, especially—it’s awful to say—but especially with exceptional people; when you see their minds going and their bodies falling to pieces, and they want to die and you want them to die, then that’s equally terrible. So it’s the mere fact of death that we can’t accept? We say it’s terrible if people die young, and we say it’s terrible if they go on living too long.