What does the man who has everything―fame, fortune, a new love, and a new baby―want for his fiftieth birthday? The answer is simple: eternal life. Determined to shake off the first intimations of his approaching demise, Frédéric tries every possible procedure to ward off death, examining both legal and illegal research into techniques that could lead to the imminent replacement of man with a post-human species. Accompanied by his ten-year-old daughter and her robot friend, Frédéric crisscrosses the globe to meet the world’s foremost researchers on human longevity, who—from cell rejuvenation and telomere lengthening to 3D-printed organs and digitally stored DNA—reveal their latest discoveries. With his blend of deadpan humor and clear-eyed perception, Beigbeder has penned a brutal and brilliant exposé of the enduring issue of our own mortality.
16 April, 2020
1. Was A Life Without End what you had expected it to be? If not, how was it different?
2. Did you like the narrator’s cynical-but-tender voice? Would you describe it differently?
3. Who was your favourite member of the family (you can choose the robot, too)? Why?
4. Why did Léonore tolerate Frédéric going on his mission for so long, when they were expecting a baby? Did she perhaps hope he’d find a cure or treatment for her, too, despite her ironic attitude?
5. In the epilogue we find out Frédéric chickened out of his scheduled young-blood treatment. Can you come up with a reason, other than simply fear? Might the reason he stopped the madness be the same reason he started it in the first place?
6. Could a talk show with a drugged presenter and contestants exist in your country? If it could, would people watch it?
7. The novel didn’t seem to question that advanced robots could be friends with—or to—humans. Is the idea preposterous? Why? In the novel, did it make a difference that the human was a teenager?
8. Which scientist, company, or technology did you spend the most time Googling? What have you concluded?
9. Is it a good thing to extend life expectancy? Compare progress over the past decades with near-future possibilities. Does it make a difference how many years are “added”?
10. Would your answer to the previous question change if these treatments were accessible and cheap?
11. Is there a treatment Frédéric learned about or tried out that you’d secretly want to try out (never mind the price for a moment)?
12. Similarly, is there any place he went that you’d now like to visit (beyond the health clinics and spas)?
13. Is it obvious what the author’s opinions are on the topic? There are numerous interviews with him on the subject matter—what do you expect that he thinks?
14. If you have read anything about Beigbeder’s opinions, does it change the way you interpret the novel?
15. What did you think of the novel form as a way to discuss recent (and future) technological innovations? Can A Life Without End be called “science non-fiction”? What would that mean?
16. Did you like the fact that the author used himself and his family as characters, and that they embarked on an only semi-fictional journey? Is this combination of fiction and non-fiction enriching, or confusing perhaps?
‘Written in a breezy style, bristling with wit, sarcasm, heavy doses of gallows humor, and many lists…This extravagant metafiction about obsession, life, love, and lists mixes sincerity with an endearing, genre-bending wackiness.’
‘A Life Without End pivots entirely on its voice—smart-ass, wisecracking, yet shaded by pathos and sentiment. As translator, the ever-excellent Frank Wynne catches all this motormouth ebullience and solipsistic charm…the fun, and the gags, never go extinct.’
‘If you have any interest in genetics it will put you right on top of things’ —David Mills, The Sunday Times
‘It’s funny, profound, brilliantly researched, and fiendishly artful.’
‘A Life Without End is, appropriately enough, a lively wallow. Death may be a dark subject, but Beigbeder’s semi-fiction is almost relentlessly upbeat and cheerful, the author aware of the absurdity of his ambition and undertaking, but clearly also well-practiced in faking it for an audience and putting on a good show.’
‘A touching and contemplative literary curve ball.’
‘A Life Without End is an invigorating, oddball and entertaining read, spawning a new kind of post-Existentialism for the digital age.’ —Bookblast
‘Brutally funny.’ —New Scientist
‘Beigbeder has produced one of the most human, touching, relevant, and funny stories about passing time, the acceptance of ageing, and the need to love. If you’re looking for something quite unlike anything else to read, then choose this.’
‘A call to arms against transience from a Beigbeder who is back in top form, with all his trademark wit.’
‘This mad philosophical and biological quest is a life-affirming and intelligent reflection on the meaning of life. Decidedly ambitious, Monsieur Beigbeder!’
‘As always, Frédéric Beigbeder knows perfectly well how to seize burning issues. In A Life Without End he captures immortality, the desire it inspires, and its likelihood. A tale falling somewhere between satire and the confidences of a father, a lover, and a writer who wants to live forever.’
‘Behind this wild pursuit of immortality appears a sharper and deeper reflection than you would expect.’
‘An audacious romance, between obsessions and hope.’
‘If you have any interest in genetics it will put you right on top of things.’
David Mills, The Sunday Times