Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Books Archive

Month: April 2018

From Here to Eternity – Athenaeum Book Club 2018

By Caitlin Doughty

April 26, 2018

As a practicing mortician, Caitlin Doughty has long been fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies.  In From Here to Eternity she sets out in search of cultures unburdened by such fears.  In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body.  She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and introduces us to the Japanese ritual of kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones’ bones from cremation ashes.

With curiosity and morbid humour, Doughty introduces us to inspiring death-care innovators, participates in powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in the West and explores new spaces for mourning – including a futuristic glowing-Buddha columbarium in Japan, a candlelit Mexican cemetery, and America’s only open-air pyre.  In doing so she expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with ‘dignity’ and reveals unexpected possibilities for own death rituals.

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