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Dying for Publicity

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Some common motives for suicide are escape from sorrow or unbearable difficulties, protest, honor – fairly common in Japan and other parts of Asia – escape from incurable illness and unrequited love, perhaps not now so common as it was in other more romantic eras. But a recent offer by Portuguese poet Joaquin Castro Caldels to commit suicide for the sake of personal publicity is an interesting exception. He made the offer in good faith to the Gulbenkian Foundation a world organization dedicated to arts.

Castro offered to commit suicide for $7,000 (it sounds better in Portuguese currency – 1,320,000 escudos). He even submitted a breakdown of how the money was to be spent on his commemorative funeral: 70,000 escudos for revolver and bullets: 500,000 for cremation and scattering of his ashes in the Tagus River flowing through Lisbon: 500,000 for good orchestra to play Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder , and 250,000 for an orchestrated performance by two hundred clowns.

Not surprisingly, the foundation refused the detailed and imaginative offer which nevertheless became known to the press possibly through information furnished by the prospective “victim”. In any case the poet got the publicity he wanted without having to kill himself for it.


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