An ode to the Economist Obituary Section

Where you might find lots of fascinating characters, full of pioneering spirt

I recently moved back to my hometown and had to change the address on my few subscriptions. Since high school, I've subscribed to the Economist. My interest in and affinity for the magazine has ebbed and flowed over the years though I've enjoyed having that stable reference point in navigating our increasingly weird times. The magazine includes an obituary section, something that even many long time readers may not know. I was turned onto the obituary by a recommendation from David Brooks and since then have found it my favorite section of the magazine. It's hard to exaggerate how underrated this section truly is.

Where else might you a wonderfully vivid rendering of the life of an SAS operative fighting the Nazi's in North Africa?[1]

For five days he had been trudging on foot through 100 miles of Tunisian desert. The sas group he was with had been caught by the Germans, but he and two others had dropped into gullies and, by nightfall, got clear away. Knowing the lie of the land, and reading the stars, he led them through mountains and between salt lakes until they reached an area controlled by the Free French. A few dates were their only food, and their water a trickle tied in a goatskin. Now his hair was bleached and wild, his exposed skin blistered and his feet in tatters. But, as usual, he had steered his colleagues to safety.

Many of the figures chronicled in the Economist's obits are the type of humans who belong in Steve Jobs' famous Apple Commercial Here's to the Crazy Ones, special people who stand six sigma away from the norm of human experience. They are not all heroic or conform to Great (Wo)Man type notions. Some are more much more humble everyday folks who quietly do the impossible and the amazing, like the Canadian-Israeli peace activist killed during the horrific October 7th attack.

Ann Wroe has been writing the obituary section for over two decades, a streak of excellence for which I am incredibly grateful. If you have not been reading the Economist's obituary's, I highly recommend you check them out!

[1] (The Obituary's subtitle Wind, Sand, and Stars is a [presumed] allusion to Antoine de Saint Exupery's book of that name, an awe inspiring work that touches on aerial exploration of the Sahara and a kindred spirit.)

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