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“I used to think, before I had one, that the midlife crisis was something that happened to weak-minded chumps who didn’t have backbone. Now I believe that midlife crises are structural: they’re to do with your whole life. They’re to do with facing things that haven’t been faced before. And what gets them going is a hysterical overreaction to the certainty that you’re going to die.

One of the definitions of youth is that you think death and decay are things that happen to other people; some part of you thinks, funnily enough, in my case it’s not going to happen. Though you’re intellectually persuaded that it will, a bit of you goes on believing it’s just a rumor as far as you’re concerned.

Milan Kundera said that ‘we’re children throughout our lives because every 10 years we have to learn a new set of rules.’ I think that’s a good remark, and I think it’s spectacularly true of the mid-life. When I was 40, I thought I knew everything. I was even almost bored by the transparency of everything and how clear life was to me. Then suddenly, I was pitched up on the shore of the mid-life, and I thought, ‘I don’t know anything anymore! I’ve got to learn all this stuff anew.’ And that’s a frightening thought, but it’s an exciting thought, too. And you do pick up these sort of hints and pointers about how you can live the next period of your life.”

__________

Martin Amis, speaking in a 1995 interview with Charlie Rose.

Later in the conversation, Charlie remarks, “You’ve said you’re happy about all this but also, in some ways, saddened.” Amis’s reply: “Well, I’m sad about the sunderings that proved necessary, or at any rate have happened in my life. Friends. Family. Wife. It all feels unknown out there now.”

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