The Dedalus Book of Literary Suicides


Dead Letters is an original and lively analysis of literary life (and death) that too often is sensationalised elsewhere, without proper context. The A-list of suicides includes: Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Arthur Koestler, Yukio Mishima and others, creatively categorised as existential, romantic, surreal and manic-depressive.” – Iain Finlayson in The Times

“Lachman’s goal to write a book ‘on writers who had killed themselves or had tried to, or had written about suicide at some length or depth’ would be immense. To qualify, the author requires the suicide to be in some way ‘interesting’. Thus we have the philosopher Philipp Mainlander, who killed himself because of the second law of thermodynamics; Zeno, who purportedly hanged himself after stubbing his toe on a turtle; and Yukio Mishima’s sensational and bloody hara-kiri performance
Suicides are arranged by type: Existential suicides brought on by metaphysical issues, emotionally rich Romantic suicides; political suicides; manic-depressive mortal coil shuffling a la Sylvia Plath; and the bizarre and often nonchalant suicides of many Surrealists. Lachman focuses on little known or forgotten characters such as Polish avant garde figure Witkacy; Thomas Chatterton, ‘the original tragic Romantic genius’; narcissistic publisher Harry Crosby; and the tormented Austrian poet Georg Trakl.
The second part of Dead Letters is a selection of writings about suicide whose real value lies in Lachman’s research and his knack of smoothly relating obscure biographical tidbits and philosophical ideas.
This work on a grim subject never becomes overly morbid and Lachman remains respectful of his troubled subjects. Suicide is not recommended, but this volume surely is. Splendid summary of self destruction.” – Mike Pursley in Fortean Times