“But then it’s the commonness that’s most wrenching, the registering once more of the fact of death that overwhelms everything”.
Everyman by Philip Roth is a short novel that begins and ends at a funeral with a lifetime reviewed between the start and the end point.
The life in question is that of an advertising executive well past his prime, a man increasingly frustrated by aging and ailments who yearns for the vigour of youth and grieves for the human condition — that “you are born to live and you die instead”, a man for whom religious belief has no comfort to offer: “No hocus-pocus about death and God or obsolete fantasies of heaven for him. There was only our bodies, born to live and die on terms decided by the bodies that had lived and died before us”.
For what is an essentially bleak essay on the human condition, Everyman is a good read — powerful, stirring, thought-provoking — a book that muses on death but is really a celebration of life, that may perhaps inspire you to think about your own life and how you live it, perhaps to atone as the protagonist’s father would have urged him to do, but above all to live with greater awareness of the brevity of life lest, at the end, someone might say: “Don’t you get it? You almost missed everything.”