It was in Paris in October, 1985, that Styron first realized his continuing struggle to regain his mental equilibrium might lead to his death. He had been fighting against a growing loss of self-esteem for some months over the previous summer, and during that October trip to receive the Prix Mondial Cino del Duca, which should have been a joyful occasion, his feelings of worthlessness deepened. He had at first ascribed his anxiety and restlessness to alcohol withdrawal, for he had abruptly given up whiskey and all other intoxicants the previous June. As his moods worsened, he started to read as much as he could on the disease of depression, about which little was known at that time. When his distress intensified before he had left for the Paris trip with his wife, Rose, he had made an appointment to see a psychiatrist as soon as he returned to his home in Connecticut.
As he meditates on his own wretched mental state, Styron is reminded of the death of the existentialist writer Albert Camus and the prominence of suicide and despondency in his work. This segues into a long discussion of the suicides of the activist Abbie Hoffman and writer Primo Levi and the suspected suicide of poet Randall Jarrell. Although depression afflicts an eclectic group and anyone might be a potential victim, there is some evidence to suggest that artistic types, especially poets, are unusually prone to the disease.
After returning home from Paris, Styron met with his...
(The entire section is 492 words.)