Lazarus’ Silence: Near-Death Experiences in Fiction, Science, and Popular Culture


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships


French and Italian


This book is the first cultural history of near-death experiences in the twentieth-century West, and it puts literary rewritings of the Biblical Lazarus story—by major authors such as Gabriele d’Annunzio, Luigi Pirandello, Graham Greene, Miguel de Unamuno, D. H. Lawrence, J. L. Borges, Georges Bataille, and André Malraux—in the double context of popular versions of coming back to life in testimonies, fiction, and film, and of evolving neuroscientific investigation. Countering disillusionment with how institutions (medical, religious, or political) handle death, central to these stories is the desire to put the individual in charge of his or her own dying, yet at the same time to assert that death is a common journey, in which others have preceded us.