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‚Every Third Thought‘, Robert McCrum, (Picador, 2017): On Life, Death and the Endgame

The question is no longer ‚Who am I?‘ but ‚How long have I got?‘
In 1995, at the age of 42, Robert McCrum suffered a dramatic and near-fatal stroke. Even since that life-changing event, McCrum has lived in the shadow of death, unavoidably aware of his own mortality. And now, 21 years on, he is noticing a change: his friends are joining him there. Death has become his contemporaries‘ ‚every third thought‘ (a phrase by Prospero at the end of Shakespeare’s ‚The Tempest‘).

With the words of McCrum’s favourite authors as travel companions, ‚Every Third Thought‘ takes us on a journey through a year and towards a better understanding of ageing and death. As he acknowledges his own and his friends‘ ageing, McCrum confronts an existential question: in a world where we have learnt to live well at all costs, can we make peace with dying? Searching for answers leads him to others for advice and wisdom. We hear from brain surgeons, psychologists, cancer patients, writers and poets.

Can literary narratives, art and poetry encourage and console us as we age?

Andrew and Sandra discuss the question with several quotations and extracts from this extraordinary book.