THE IMMORTALIST by Alan Harrington


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This is a provocative but half-cocked meditation on death, by a novelist (The Ordeal of Dr. Modesto; The Secret Swinger) who dares humanity to assert its will to eternal life by attaining complete scientific mastery over decay. Such a program, he states, is already under way: witness developments like organ transplants, artificial body parts, and ""cyrenics,""--the process of freezing bodies for later resurrection. He asserts that the actual achievement of immortality only awaits several generations of determined research, plus the abandonment of age-old fears inculcated by religion, which teaches that freedom from death is the prerogative of gods alone, and philosophy, which instructs that finitude must be accepted as part of the human condition. Hoping to wipe the slate clean, Harrington spends most of his book attacking these views, tangling with such as Niebuhr, Maritain, St. Augustine, Buber, and Freud. His odd premise seems to be that it is not a shortage of technology but an excess of ontology which has held back medical science. His own understanding of existence, however, is weakened by his refusal to confront the evidence for a death wish that is at least as powerful as man's desire to live forever. Even those who concede that the indefinite prolongation of life may someday be possible, will wonder at Harrington's notion of what ""life"" is. Does immortality consist of frozen sleep? What is to be done with accumulated population on this already overcrowded globe? And how are humans, who have problems deciding what to do on Saturday night, going to fill those dreary eternities with meaning? These questions are more interesting than the author's glib sallies against metaphysicians whose intellectual reach exceeds his untutored grasp. A fertile farrago, likely to confuse readers into grateful acceptance of the Exploding Plastic (Terminal) Inevitable.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1969
Publisher: Random House