Being Dead

  • by Jim Crace
  • Narrated by Virginia Leishman
  • 6 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 2001
Jim Crace has been called "one of the brightest lights in contemporary British fiction" by The New York Times Book Review. His novels have won a Whitbread Prize, an E.M. Forster Award, the Guardian Fiction Award, the GAP International Prize for Literature, and have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Far-ranging in its imagery, Being Dead is a provocative examination of mortality. A middle-aged couple, Joseph and Celice, are murdered on a remote East Coast sand dune. They are not discovered for six days. Both doctors of zoology, Joseph and Celice would recognize what is happening to their decomposing bodies if they could have watched. They are dead, but they remain part of the living for a while as they become food, shelter, icons, and sources of emotional catharsis. As Jim Crace examines the various facets of these two people's lives and deaths, he creates an extraordinary journey through haunting physical, scientific, and philosophical landscapes. Narrator Virginia Leishman provides the perfect tones for Crace's remarkable, lyrical text.


What the Critics Say

"Crace is a brilliant British writer whose novels are always varied in historical setting, voice, theme and writing style, and are surprising in content....This latest, sixth effort, a stunning look at two people at the moment of their deaths, is the riskiest of his works, the most mesmerizing, and the most deeply felt....His finesse in drawing character is matched by the depth of his knowledge and imagination, and the honesty of his bleak vision." (Publishers Weekly)
"It's not clear to me why Jim Crace isn't world famous. Few novels are as unsparing as this one in presenting the ephemerality of love given the implacability of death, and few are as moving in depicting the undiminished achievement love nevertheless represents." (The New York Times Book Review)
"A brilliant, astonishing novel." (The Times [London])


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Ontological Elegy, Brutal Grace

"Being Dead" is not a good book; it is art looking at being and being looking at art. Defying genre, its peculiar wierdness explodes--not the art of the novelist--but the genius of thought.

It's hard to imagine this book finding a readership based on any casual description. A middle-aged, unremarkable couple are murdered on a beach and begin the process of being dead. The author provides uncompromising description of six days of it. We get a novel's worth of backstory, but the backstory is mere background, a funeral elegy that doesn't distract us from the biology of death, nor elevate us--nor insult us.

The book is not a searing affirmation of life. It isn't really a meditation on mortality. It is a book about being and nonbeing. It is philosophy at its best but also not at all. Great books change the game rules and make you rethink what a book is, and what being is and isn't.

The prose, is sublime. Yet every word of description possesses plodding ordinariness. To call the prose poetic can only suggest the strange schema the writing conjures.

Never once sentimental, hopeful, inspiring, encouraging, it never offers an alternative to being dead. Its compulsive hopelessness is not a loss or lack of hope, but a journey past the merely describable with such a lack of judgementalness that it might well be the phone book or the Heart Sutra.

Socrates, in Plato's Republic, describes the attraciton of corpses in a pile outside the city walls, and how he knows it is bad for him to go look but still succumbs. You suspect that perhaps this morbid attraction is what will give the book momentum. No, it is, perhaps, the most peculiar piece of nature writing attempted.

Like all great books, it is about itself. You cannot sum it.

I've somehow changed, as if some part of me has come and gone. Not knowing how or why, I know I will revisit the book several times before I begin to be dead. Great books enlarge.
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- Harry Kelley

Contemplating Death

Perhaps, having had a child die, I have a greater interest in contemplating death than the average listener. I found the book to be magical and plan to listen to it again. There is no problem with the narrator that I perceived. The author has a gift for language that supersedes any in my recollection.
If you are adventurous in the truest sense (not in the car chase – building explosion way), give this a listen.
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- J. Cline

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-24-2004
  • Publisher: Recorded Books