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A New Work of Fiction Suggests Living Forever Isn’t Everything It’s Cracked Up to Be

Jan. 31 2018

Dara Horn’s novel Eternal Life traces the aftermath of a supernatural deal between two 1st-century lovers—Rachel and Elazar—who, to save the life of their ailing child, strike an agreement that requires them to live forever. By the 21st century, the two have married others, had innumerable children, and watched spouses and offspring die countless times. Reviewing the book, B.D. McClay writes about the tension that informs the narrative:

Hannah, Rachel’s granddaughter by her most recent marriage, announces that she’s on a team of scientists trying to figure out how to help people live forever, a project that fills Rachel, initially, with horror. But if Hannah can isolate the causes of aging and death, Rachel reasons, can’t she also help people to die? And if Rachel can safely let Hannah in on her secret, might she be able to explain why it’s good that people die?

This is a little too much for a fairly slender novel to juggle, and Eternal Life doesn’t quite have the magic of Dara Horn’s previous books. . . . Despite its flaws, [however,] Eternal Life is frequently moving, especially in its early chapters as Rachel remembers her long life, the sorrows that cut deeply even after centuries. “What reasons,” she wonders, “are there for being alive?”

It’s not an easy question to answer. . . . In a sense, Dara Horn’s other novels [like The World to Come and A Guide for the Perplexed] do a better job of answering [it]. Perhaps death isn’t real, and neither is life as we know it; perhaps we are surrounded and sustained by eternity, and by love, and incorporated into a complex and beautiful story that we could never ourselves anticipate, playing roles we’ll never really understand. Perhaps we can only feel that eternity when we know we’ll have to leave the stage. But we don’t, at least in Horn’s books, leave the stage for nothing. We leave it for reality, for more life. At the risk of sounding circular, the meaning of life isn’t, indeed can’t be, death; it’s life.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Arts & Culture, Dara Horn, Jewish literature, Mortality

 

Toward an Iran Policy That Looks at the Big Picture

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech outlining a new U.S. approach to the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz explain why it constitutes an important and much-needed rejection of past errors:

For too long, a peculiar consensus has suggested that it is possible to isolate the nuclear issue from all other areas of contention and resolve it in a satisfactory manner. The subsidiary [assumption] embedded in this logic is that despite the bluster of Iran’s rulers, it is governed by cautious men, who if offered sufficient incentives and soothing language would respond with pragmatism. No one embraced this notion more ardently than the former secretary of state, John Kerry, who crafted an accord whose deficiencies are apparent to all but the most hardened partisans. . . .

A regime as dangerous as the Iranian one requires no less than a comprehensive strategy to counter it. This means exploiting all of its vulnerabilities, increasing the costs of its foreign adventures, draining its economy, and aiding our allies. Most importantly, the United States must find a way of connecting itself to domestic opposition that continuously haunts the mullahs.

Washington should no longer settle for an arms-control agreement that paves Iran’s path to a bomb but rather a restrictive accord that ends its nuclear aspirations. The United States should not implore its allies to share the Middle East with Iran, as Barack Obama did, but partner with them in defeating the clerical imperialists. And most importantly, the United States should never forget that its most indispensable ally is the Iranian people.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Foreign policy