Memento Mori
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Memento Mori

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,557 ratings  ·  194 reviews
In late 1950s London, something uncanny besets a group of elderly
friends: an insinuating voice on the telephone informs each, "Remember
you must die.
" Their geriatric feathers are soon thoroughly ruffled by
these seemingly supernatural phone calls, and in the resulting flurry
many old secrets are dusted off. Beneath the once decorous surface of
their lives, unsavories like bla...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published June 17th 2000 by New Directions (first published 1958)
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Have read this novel a number of times and as I have just put it onto my ' favourite shelf ' I thought it would be sensible to say why. Then having written that the inspiration falters. I love the book but don't know the reason. Its sinister and funny and bizarre in fairly equal measure...classic Muriel I suppose. Old folk each get a phone call in which a voice, oddly different to each listener, declares ' Memento Mori '- ' Remember you will die'. For some this is a simple confirmation of the ob...more
A circle of elderly people in 1950s London are regularly phoned by a stranger who says only 'Remember you must die' before hanging up. There is Charmian, whose popular novels are undergoing a resurgence of public interest. There is her husband, Godfrey Colston, the brewery magnate, now retired, whose adulteries never seem to go further than a fugitive glimpse of certain ladies' stockings and garter clip. There is Percy Mannering, the slobbering old poet and grandfather of 23 year old Olive Manne...more
Jul 21, 2010 Leslie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: John Richardson
This is a very talky book, mostly set in drawing rooms and hospital wards. It follows a high-society geriatric set and their servants and lovers past and present. The high-society old folks have been prone to intrigues; most are long past and poorly buried (the intrigues, not the old folks). These folks are haunted, paranoid and fearing exposure. The servants and lovers wield power to blackmail and worm their way into some high-society wills. In my opinion, the stage show is most thrilling when...more
Deborah Markus
This is a strange, beautiful, eerily elegant book. The premise is simple: several elderly British people have been receiving phone calls from someone who says, “Remember you must die.” How each of them responds to this message is the story, which is deeply humorous without being the least bit flippant.

I was surprised to see how young Spark was when she wrote this – she’d just turned 41 when it was published (in 1959). I suppose I’m in no position to judge how accurately the characters are drawn,...more
A black comedy about old age and the inevitability of death, with very few characters under 70. I give it high marks both for tackling such an unusual and challenging topic head on, and for doing so utterly unselfconsciously; this is not an issue book, not a Serious Attempt to talk about old people, but instead comedy in the true sense, a book that stimulates fears only to laugh at them, and that satirises social problems without offering solutions.

That being said... I didn't really enjoy readi...more
E ricordiamocelo una volta ogni tanto che dobbiam morire.
Memento mori, ricordati che la vita finisce prima, o poi, o durante, e comunque, e anche se, forse o magari, domani o dopodomani, di sera o di mattina, estate o inverno, che dormi o sei sveglio, incazzato nero o seduto sul cesso. Che tu sia Onassis, media borghesia, barbone, intelligente, genio o demente.
Che presto o tardi é il nostro turno.
C'é chi carpe diem, diamoci dentro, cogliamo l'attimo e non facciamo tante menate. C'é chi si ferma,...more
What could happen to a group of old people who are threatened by an anonymous calls with a single message: "remember that you will die"?

Additionally, a great expectation is made with their wills any time one of them reach its final end of life.

The reminder about the death - the Mememto Mori, brings a lot of mystery, metaphysical issues, tea time party and even some ironic moments.

Another little masterpiece written by Muriel Spark.
Courtney Johnston
I might be 60 years late to the party, but you can chalk me up to the Muriel Spark fan club right now.

There's a particular English tone that I love - dryly, darkly witty, sparkling with a touch of desperation, a stiff upper lip that trembles on the tip of laughter or tears. Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford, Stella Gibbons, even Dorothy Sayers and P.G. Wodehouse - they're tremendously stylish writers, and if you get subject matter that's moving, then that's even better.

Here, Sparks (still a relatively...more
As usual, I'm impressed by Muriel Spark. She has an amazing way of taking dark subject matter and making it highly readable and even humorous at times. How do you make the aged and dying entertaining, intriguing, relate-able, and still keep the reader on edge, fearing that something will go horribly wrong at any moment? Not an easy task.

I offer one scene in particular as proof that Spark's talent borders on brilliant. The scene where Charmian makes tea for herself. Charmian is quite old and suff...more
This book is really interesting and ahead of it's time. Written in the 1950's, every major character is in their 70's and portrayed in a much more intelligent way then one sees older characters portrayed in art. Each one is a multifaceted and interesting personality and like many of Spark's books, as you read it, each character changes several times from good to evil to somewhere in between.
My one difficulty was the ending, I didn't feel that everything was wrapped up successfully although seve...more
Sep 16, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: William
Shelves: big-white-square
A congregation of unpleasant upper middle classes and Muriel lets rip. She's such a bitch! Great fun.

"Mabel Pettigrew thought: I can read him like a book. She had not read a book for over forty years,"

"Alec spoke to Mrs Bean and received a civil and coherent answer which came, as it seemed, from a primitive reed instrument in her breast-bone,"

"- there is always something new. I sometimes fear, at the present rate of discovery, I shall never die."
Thom Dunn
A mini-masterpiece. Spark's compassionate control of her material, her sensitive portrayal of nursing home residents is on a par with Tracy Kidder's Old Friends. Aging and death can be approached with faith and merriment, is her theme, but she doesn't beat readers over the head with it, instead let's it emerge from her situations.
The large cast of the English geriatrics in this book can at times by witty and humorous, but their petty affairs and blackmailing become quickly tiresome, and the book comes off as pointless in the end. If the book wanted to treat the inevitability of old age and death in a humorous way, it was off the track.
I read this book as a sort of celebration of my 40th birthday. It's dark, twisted, and infused with the inevitability of degeneration and demise-- and I laughed my ass off. There's also an intrieguing cameo by the Almighty, which just took the whole thing to an unexpected level. Loved it.
Mandy Jo
This week’s headline? quoth the raven…

Why this book? cleansing the palette

Which book format? awesome used copy

Primary reading environment? absent-minded free time

Any preconceived notions? she was prolific

Identify most with? Charmian (pronounced Kar-mee-un)

Three little words? “intimations of immortality”

Goes well with? oirish breakfast tea

Here’s where I deviate from the prescribed English major path.

I know there are people who study Muriel Spark. The Editors’ Preface to this edition of the book i...more
Sep 20, 2011 Judy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of novels by English writers

Novel number three by Muriel Spark is just as odd and fitful as the first two. This time she takes on old age, though she was barely 40 when she wrote it. I can't say that reading Spark is pleasurable but it is never boring. She just comes out and has her characters do and say things that most of us would rather not admit to, though we all do and say such things ourselves. No one enjoys being made to look foolish but Spark almost makes the reader enjoy it.

Several elderly characters are receiving...more
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Los años cincuenta en Gran Bretaña supusieron un cambio radical a la situación establecida anteriormente, era la post-guerra; y, a pesar de que se encontraban entre los ganadores del conflicto bélico, también eran cada vez más conscientes de que la posición de dominancia que pudieron tener en el pasado había cambiado; los actores eran otros y esto se reflejó, como no podía ser de otra manera, en las obras literarias.
Muchos de los escritores de...more
How many books exist with a cast almost entirely of people 70 years or older? One? Two? This book is an achievement--it's a casually hilarious novel. Spark doesn't revel in her own cleverness, call attention to how smart she is, or resort to anything too absurd or too precious for the world that she has invented. Instead, she is just damned funny, and a genius at writing dialogue to boot. Her phrasing doesn't feel worried-over, it feels fresh and light, which is perfect, considering that:

It's a...more
What is better than "discovering" an author who makes you want to run out an buy everything they've ever written? How did I go so long without reading the dark, dry wit and clever pacing and plotting of Ms. Spark? The scene is post war London, the characters are almost entirely between the ages of 70 and 100 in various states of physical and mental health, and the plot is around anonymous phone calls telling them "Remember you must die." What starts off almost as a mystery (who is making these c...more
It's like a soap centered on English geriatrics during the 1950s, sudsy in a who's-blackmailing-whom-for-an-affair-just-after-the-war sort of way. The help steal from their employers, a mysterious someone makes threatening phone calls, etc. The characters are incontinent, senile and/or crotchety. It's not an emotionally deep novel, in the end, but not unenjoyable either. The writing is serviceable.

I do want to share two sentences that grabbed me:

"'Being over seventy is like being engaged in a wa...more
This book was a pleasant and clever little character study. It portrays various characters, their relationships, and their own attitudes toward and dealing with death.

It is a testament to Spark's writing that while very little happened, I kept reading it. Since I have the attention span of a duck or possibly a frog, I surprisingly did not get bored.

I really thought this book was a mystery novel, and in a way it way, but no one solved the case because, in the end, there really was no mystery to...more
Louise Silk
I got this book after reading something by Gloria Steinem where she referenced the work in a discussion about aging. So as much as I wanted to like the book as Gloria did, I didn't find anything about it interesting or enjoyable.

This is an inane old-fashioned trying-to-be-funny look at aging. The scandalous interpersonal relations of this mostly elder group of English women that drives the novel are petty, hollow and uninteresting. It may have been a surprising scandalous novel in its day, but...more
No sé si es ésta la mejor novela para empezar a leer a Muriel Spark. En cualquier caso, es la que ha caído en mis manos y reconozco que la he disfrutado de verdad, aunque todavía me cuesta saber bien por qué. Me queda claro que “Memento mori” es diferente, no es una novela al uso, aunque no hay nada en ella, al menos desde el punto de vista formal, que me permita sostener esta afirmación. Tampoco me parece que sean el argumento o la trama los que la hacen especial. Deben de ser los personajes, s...more
A group of septuagenarians in late-1950s Britain are receiving upsetting phone calls: a man keeps harassing them, simply stating, "Remember, you must die." In Spark's hands, what would be a vehicle or device for a crime/thriller in the hands of someone like Agatha Christie instead becomes a tour de force of social commentary.

Like Christie, Spark uses social banter to explore and criticize social issues; in Memento Mori, Spark brings postbellum anxieties about class, gender, and death to bear on...more
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Nicholas During
I don't know why but I really enjoying books about aging, and this one is probably the best of them. It's a bit cruel, and that will no doubt turn some people off, but it's also fucking hilarious, very subtle, and an a well-crafted narrative. I can't help but compare it to Kingsley Amis's The Old Devils, and this book is better because of the reasons given above (maybe with the exception of humor, because Amis is also very funny). I think young people do find it to sympathize with old people; it...more
Dry comedy and cynicism--maybe this was edgy in 1959, but it's less so now. It's not a bad book, but the mystery-intrigue hook is a cheat, since it's never resolved. In the end, this felt like a Forester novel in which these privileged and self-important people have all gotten a good ways beyond the age of peak drama--have, in fact, gone to seed.
Mostly unlikable characters. I considered abandoning it, but it wasn't a long book, and I was reading it on my lunch break and didn't have anything else to read, so I stuck it out.

But if it had been breakfast reading (rather than lunch), I'd have abandoned the book for the back of a cereal box...
Todavía no se si lo que me impresiona de este libro es reconocer unos cuantos comportamientos y actitudes que experimenté de niño (viví muy próximo a octagenarios) o tener la certeza de que voy a terminar mis días teniendo algunos puntos en común con Godfrey, Charmian y la Sra. Anthony.
The author shines a spotlight on the thoughts and preoccupations of an aging population in the story "Memento Mori (New Directions Classic)."

Set in England in the 1950s, we meet the elderly characters residing sometimes on their own, or with a spouse, or in nursing homes. In all cases, their fears of those who would ignore them or harm them are articulated as persecutions. One specific persecution takes the form of anonymous phone calls with the message: "Remember you must die."

As each person ex...more
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Dame Muriel Spark, DBE (1918–2006) was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. Spark grew up in Edinburgh and worked as a department store secretary, writer for trade magazines, and literary editor before publishing her first novel in 1957. A few years earlier, in 1954, she converte...more
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“It is difficult for people of advanced years to start remembering they must die. It is best to form the habit while young.” 14 likes
“Final perseverance is the doctrine that wins the eternal victory in small things as in great” 6 likes
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