The art of the obituary


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My favorite section in The Economist is the Obituary. In one page, they write the essence of a life lived. Today’s needull explains this art. And as an example, an obituary of Muhammad Ali.

The 1,500 words that followed, accompanied by a photograph of the dishevelled peer embracing a scantily clad Australian showgirl, were a memorable example of a journalistic genre which has developed in recent years into something of a cult: the obituary as entertainment. In earlier times, British newspapers’ obituary pages were as solemn as the classified death notices that accompanied them. But since the mid-1980s they have become a source of daily fascination and delight. There is space these days not merely for Nobel-prize winners and establishment time-servers. Here also, in an almost random international cavalcade, its composition determined by the combined whims of the Grim Reaper and the editor responsible, are circus performers, jazz musicians, squires, poets, eccentrics and rogues, from Marshal Akhromeyev of the Red Army to Frank Zappa, late of the unconventional musical group, the Mothers of Invention.

The art of the obituary

Obituary: Muhammad Ali

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