Station Eleven is a difficult book to summarize. Covering a tight but dynamic set of main characters and a sprawling timeline, the book layers settings, memories, people, and situations, jumping back and forth between a world devastated by a pandemic, the early moments of the disaster, and the years and decades before the event. But most of all, the book explores a range of themes: loneliness, longing, belonging, meaning, and survival.
But, if anything, the core tenet of a post-apocalyptic roving Shakespearean acting troupe and orchestra acts as a sort of leitmotif, even a mantra, lurking in the back of most scenes and tying the text together: “Survival is insufficient.” What we mean by survival, what we do to attain it, and what it may mean to transcend it.
So it is once a book about plague, about Shakespeare and acting, about failed relationships and drifting conversations, about loneliness and hope, and most of all, about what it means to live.
I listened to Station Eleven during a series of long car rides a few years ago, and I found myself hooked. I had wanted to read it during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic but lacked the mindset, preferring escapism to reflections on a pandemic-ravaged world. Revisiting it then, over a year and half later, I felt more distant, more ready to reflect. And a few things struck me. So I started reflecting on some of those changes. I put it, as well as a lot of non-required writing, on hold. Here are some of those thoughts, though rather late.Continue reading “Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven and Survival”