East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Immortality through art


My brother is an amateur criminologist with a thing for Jack the Ripper – maybe I have already mentioned in the past his blog, Red Jack – and yesterday he mentioned to me two interesting facts:

  • Fact the first: we live in the area of Italy with the highest suicide rate in the nation (a fact I already knew and I think I mentioned in one of the Buscafusco stories)
  • Fact the second: the Christmas season is the time in the year with the highest rate of suicides – the forced merriment increases the sense of solitude, just as the shopping frenzy can push people in financial difficulties towards dark thoughts.

And today a friend, a widely published British writer, mentioned on Facebook the fact that he once sought immortality through his art – or, if not sought, he sort of gave it a thought – but nowadays he’s sceptical. He observed, and I agree, that our books are not a reliable portrait, as they represent a snapshot of what we were in a certain moment in time.

Could you really build a portrait of myself by reading my stories in chronological order? I doubt it.
Because if it is true that we always put a piece of ourselves in our stories, it is also true that, as a commercial writer, there is also something else I need to work in: the publisher’s call, the theme of the anthology, the editor’s guidelines and his work on my text, the need to make a sale on my part.
In writing we do not reveal ourselves, but rather we masquerade, we don a costume to please an audience.
This is, incidentally, where I think that the idea of connecting with an author through social media might and often does short-circuit: should I play a part to meet the expectations of the readers, or will the readers be disappointed in discovering that I am not like, say, Felice Sabatini, or like Aculeo (or Amunet!), or like Buscafusco?

The discussion about immortality through art – or what passes for art hereabouts, stories – made me think about what will be of my books after I’m gone. I don’t know about the traditionally-published material, but my 101 (soon 102) self-published ebooks are likely to remain forever in the Amazon catalog, making a small residual profit for the platform forever and ever. E-mortality, to borrow a word from Brian Stableford, and to use it in the wrong way.

And I thought I’ll have to find a way to arrange for the royalties to be paid to my brother (my only surviving relation) and, after he’ll be gone too, to some worthy charity.
List this as a good proposition for the year 2019.

But I also thought that, given this state of affairs, I don’t want my future readers to know me through my books. I want them to wonder about me after reading my books.
I want them to say not, “Aha! Now I’ve got you figured out!”, but rather “What an intriguing chap, I wonder how he was really.”
Because what better way to go through eternity, than as a mystery?

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “Immortality through art

  1. A profound thought. I really appreciated it.


  2. Where does your brother found the statistics?


  3. There’s an ebook by M. L. Buchman on estate planning that’s been on my to buy list for months now, even if it’s tailored to the English/American law system and so not exactly super actionable for us.
    Also, Neil Gaiman would agree that setting things up for when you’ll not be with us anymore is a wise idea (see: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2006/10/important-and-pass-it-on.html).

    Liked by 1 person

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