Wednesday, December 20, 2006


In the island city-state of Obituaria, names, jobs, and riches are assigned in accordance to the long death-rolls (and death-roles) of the world, and wouldbe 'revenants' apply in their thousands to perpetuate the lives of those revered in fame and story.

The city was founded after the death of Abraham Lincoln by an eccentric, some would say obsessed, actor-manager Horatio Mentula (born Albrecht Mentustein). Horatio saw in Lincoln's death a besmirching of the ideals of the theatre (he had, after all, been killed in one, by a popular actor whom Horatio had managed in an earlier performance of Richard II). Horatio turned the resources of his medicine shows (third most popular after those of Buffalo Bill, and Wild-Bill Hickock) to the re-enactment of the president's life. At first he offered scenes from Abraham's past glories: the childhood in a log-cabin, the Gettysburg Address, but there was considerable competition in these matters. A rival of Horatio's Finis L. Bates
was to emulate his work with Lincoln in respect of Lincoln's slayer - claiming both to have met a living Booth in Granbury, Texas in the 1870s and later to have taken possession Booth's body after his suicide and toured the mummified body in carnival sideshows. Horatio, however, both anticipated and outdid Bates, and late in 1870 he adopted a different tack. His touring exhibit "What President Lincoln Did Next" in which an actor day by day performed the tasks of the office and person of Lincoln onward as if he had not died, both offering a commentry on the politics of his successors, and a reverential depiction of the man, formed the basis of the philosophy of first 'The Living Obituary Show', then 'The Obituary Township of Marvelous Continuence', and finally the 'Isle of Obituaria'. So popular was the 're-embodiment' of Lincoln that in 1901, Horatio was able to engineer the exhumation of the president's body and its removal to Obituaria where reinterred in concrete several feet thick it formed the foundation stone of the first of Obitaria's many White Houses (one each for each President young enough at the time of death to still be living at this hour, the 'Elder Statesman' President residing by current tradition in the First White House).

It is the aim of Obituaria to grant to every assassinated, or otherwise untimely slain, man or woman of reknown, the full lifespan of the oldest person willing and able to devote themselves to honouring them. Abraham Lincoln for example, by the devotion of several 'revenants' finally past away peaceably in his bed in the First White House at the age of 115 in 1914, to headlines depicting his sorrow at 'European folly'.

Candidates for each newly deceased 'office' are carefully winnowed for devotion to the genuine beliefs, resemblance to the actual appearance (which may differ from that publicised) and comparability of age to the time of death, of the deceased.
There were in the early years a number of scandals caused by fanatics of various stripes, seeking to enact 'post-deathbed' recantations of various political, religious, or philosophical positions.

Not all inhabitants of Obituria are enactors, some are professional or technical staff paid by the Horatio estate (headed by Horatios own enactor(s) and legal heirs until the death of the oldest 'Mr H' in 1927), but not all the enactors are of the famous. Many non-famous people who would otherwise have been mourned only within a narrow circle, have yet found someone of their age, build, and beliefs who is willing to live their lives out 'in their name' for them. These too are welcome.

In some cases the loved ones of a deceased person have migrated to Obituaria and formed a 'secondary household' around the nucleus of rememberance. Indeed this process was so common that by 1954 Dr Fredric Wertham warned in his book 'Seduction of the Mourners', that Obituaria was an impediment to the 'process of mourning' and a 'retardation of progress'. His argument that Obituaria perpetuated beliefs and relationships that would otherwise have been cut short by a form of cultural Dawinism was much discussed in the 1950s along with such issues as segregation and Female emancipation.

Today Obituaria is a haven of peace where Isaac Asimov works on his tenth Foundation novel (the process a mutually beneficial licensing arrangement with his estate), where President Kennedy, approaching his 90th year lives with Jackie (his wife having given 'over' her place in the 'secondary household' to a revenant on her own sad overdose).

Simon BJ

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