Monday memo #16: Life After Death: Great Obituaries


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Each day at the The Browser we recommend five or six pieces of outstanding new writing. In the Monday Memo we plunder our archives to bring you our all-time favourites on a current theme. This week: The Art of the Obituary
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Obituary: The Duchess Of Alba

Telegraph | 20th November 2014 | Metered paywall

She was born María del Rosario Cayetana Paloma Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Fernanda Teresa Francisca de Paula Lourdes Antonia Josefa Fausta Rita Castor Dorotea Santa Esperanza Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva Falcó y Gurtubay in 1926. She had "more titles than any other person on the planet", three husbands, "numerous palaces", and the right enter Seville cathedral on horseback (1,720 words)

Obituary: Helmut Schmidt

Theo Sommer | Die Zeit | 10th November 2015

German Chancellor; afterwards, publisher of Die Zeit. "The newsroom had to get used to the constant presence of the ex-chancellor’s bodyguards while Schmidt had to become accustomed to the dirty dishes that littered the corridor late at night after deadline. During job interviews, he rarely failed to ask male applicants if they had served in the military. His memos on the state of the paper were occasionally 40 pages long" (2,800 words)

Margaret Thatcher’s Dark Legacy

Hugo Young | Guardian | 8th April 2013

Hugo Young, political columnist for the Guardian and biographer of Margaret Thatcher, wrote this assessment of Mrs Thatcher's 11 years in power, shortly before his own death in 2003. "The sense of community evaporated. Whether pushing each other off the road, barging past social rivals, beating up rival soccer fans, or idolising wealth as the only measure of virtue, Brits became more unpleasant to be with. This regrettable transformation was blessed by a leader who probably did not know it was happening because she didn't care if it happened or not." (1,726 words)

The Art Of The Obituary

Alex Ronan | Paris Review | 23rd September 2014

Interview with Margalit Fox, senior writer at the New York Times and author of 1,200 obituaries over 20 years. "This work does skew your worldview a bit. For obit writers, the whole world is necessarily divided into the dead and the pre-dead. That’s all there is ... I have maybe one suicide a year and they all seem to be poets. If I were an insurance company, I’d never write a policy for poets" (1,900 words)
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Duncan Brown, Publisher

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