Living up to Death



Paul Ricoeur, David Pellauer (Trans.), Living up to Death, University of Chicago Press, 2009, 108pp., $22.50 (hbk), ISBN 9780226713496.

Reviewed by Charles Reagan, Kansas State University

This is a strange book requiring a strange review. It is the publication of some of Paul Ricoeur's previously unpublished writing, which he himself did not intend to publish. The first part of the book comes from notes he made in 1995-96 on the topic of death. After they were written, they were left in a folder and he never returned to them again. In the second part of the book are some of the "fragments" he wrote during his last days, mostly brief reflections on topics which preoccupied him such as life and death, Christianity, his faith and his philosophy, the Bible, his friend Jacques Derrida and resurrection. There is a Preface by Olivier Abel, a long-time friend of Ricoeur's and a Postface by Catherine Goldenstein, also a very close friend for his last ten years.

I would recommend that the reader begin with Catherine Goldenstein's Postface because it explains the origin of the texts and why she thought they should be published. Ms. Goldenstein, a member of the Protestant temple in Chatenay-Malabry, befriended the Ricoeurs in the early 1990s, when Ricoeur's wife Simone was in declining health. Ms. Goldenstein came to their house most afternoons to have conversation and tea with the Ricoeurs and was especially important to Simone when Ricoeur was lecturing in other cities. She helped Ricoeur in his mourning for Simone after her death in 1998 and was especially helpful to him in his last year of decline.


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