Joan Didion

In The Year of Magical Thinking, the 2005 best-seller, Joan Didion dissected the trauma of losing her husband, John Gregory Dunne. With Blue Nights, to be published in November by Knopf, she agonizingly explores the heavier blow that followed: the death of their daughter, Quintana Roo. Christopher Hitchens contemplates a tragic achievement.

By Christopher Hitchens Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

WIFE AND MOTHER Joan Didion in the living room of her New York City apartment.

Like the experience of warfare, the endurance of grave or terminal illness involves long periods of tedium and anxiety, punctuated by briefer interludes of stark terror and pain. This endurance need not necessarily be one’s own: indeed, the experience of watching over a sibling or mate in extremis can be even more acute. But nothing, according to the experts, compares to the clutching, choking nightmare that engulfs the one who is slowly bereft of a child.

It is horrible to see oneself die without children. Napoléon Bonaparte said that.
What greater grief can there be for mortals than to see their children dead. Euripides said that.
When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.
I said that.

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