Synopses & Reviews
A Globe and Mail
Best Books of the Year 2011 Title
At the heart of human experience lies an obsession with the nature of death. Religion, for most of history, has provided an explanation for human life and a vision of what comes after it. But in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such beliefs came under relentless pressure as new ideas—from psychiatry to evolution to communism—seemed to suggest that our fate was now in our own hands: humans could cease to be animals, defeat death, and become immortal.
In The Immortalization Commission, the acclaimed political philosopher and critic John Gray takes a brilliant and frightening look at humankinds dangerous striving toward a scientific version of immortality. Probing the parallel faiths of Bolshevik “God-builders,” who sought to reshape the planet and psychical researchers, who believed they had evidence of a nonreligious form of life after death, Gray raises fascinating questions about how such beliefs threaten the very nature of what it means to be human. He looks to philosophers, journalists, politicians, charlatans, and mass murderers who all felt driven by a specifically scientific and modern worldview and whose revolt against death resulted in a series of experiments that ravaged whole countries.
An urgent examination of Darwins post-religious legacy, The Immortalization Commission is an important work from “one of Britains leading public intellectuals” (The Wall Street Journal).
“Beautifully conceived and executed . . . Deftly blending philosophy and history, [The Immortalization Commission] rips along with the narrative drive of the most vivid fiction.” —Malcolm Jones, The Daily Beast “A chilling reflection on the post-Darwinian world. ” —Jill Lepore, The New Yorker “The British philosopher and freewheeling intellectual John Gray is in serious danger of making philosophy exciting and fun to read . . . Gray captures the hilarious audacity and absurdity of the search for immortality, one that could be conceived only by such charmingly quixotic creatures as human beings . . . A fascinating piece of intellectual history.” —Clancy Martin, The New York Times
About the Author
John Gray is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including Black Mass, Straw Dogs, and Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern. A regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, he is Emeritus Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.