“Of course love is the ultimate luxury, but I am unwilling to continue the trek in the certainty of its absence.”
Eleven people travel across Slovenia in a small coach. Grace and the other nine members of the group all wish to die, while their leader, Daniel, appears only to want to help them. He involves them in actors’ exercises and therapeutic games. They tell stories, travel like tourists and surprise themselves with laughter. Daniel promises he will take them, at the end of the trek, across another border to die. Though they are free to change their minds at any time, by day twenty-one they must make their choice.
Border Line is written as an entertaining and comfortable-to-read story about ordinary people. That said, its USP (Unique Selling Point – see, I have the jargon) is: ‘An upbeat love story about suicide’… So, any sane person may conclude that I have either trivialised a very serious subject by wrapping it in a love story, or the reverse; I have spoiled a decent love story by weighing it down with the heavy subject of how we choose to die. (I am long past judging whether it is either or neither).
Three things kick-started Border Line:
- Some lines in a poem titled Rehearsal by Eleanor Green … for an exercise/I look at his hands/to improve our relationship/onstage?…
- A strange and wonderful day with a Frenchwoman, an American/Hungarian(?) woman and a taxi driver from Ljubljana, in which we communicated in many tongues while trying to see most of Slovenia. We got lost in a forest in fog.
- Curiosity about people who feel a particular kind of guilt. We try to help victims, but what happens to decent people who cause bad events.
The borderlines in the title are also those of the mind. Suicide causes untold distress to relatives and friends. We all know this, and most people who contemplate it at some time in their lives recover and go on to complete their natural span. Yet living is, for some people, unbearably difficult and I personally have never felt I could blame someone who chooses the exit route. I also feel, ever more strongly, that we should have some choice about how and when we end our lives.
I also believe that there is much to live for and that the majority of people are kind, trustworthy, interesting and loveable and the world is an endlessly fascinating place that I will be reluctant to leave when my time comes.