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Maurice Sendak

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Maurice Bernard Sendak (born June 10, 1928) is an American writer and illustrator of children's literature. He is best known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963.[1]


On September 20, 2011 Maurice Sendak was on FRESH AIR, with Terry Gross, on NPR Radio. In that interview Maurice Sendak talks about his atheism.


SENDAK: Yes. Of course. And since I don't believe in another world, in another life, that this is it. And when they die they are out of my life. They're gone forever. Blank. Blank. Blank. And I am not afraid of death. And I begin to - as maybe a good many elderly people do. Who knows? When I did "Bumble-ardy" I was so intensely aware of death. Eugene, my friend and my partner, was dying here in the house while I did "Bumble-ardy." And I did "Bumble-ardy" to save myself. I did not want to die with him. I wanted to live, as any human being does. But there's no question that the book was affected by what was going on here in the house.

GROSS: We've talked before about how, you know, you're Jewish but you're very secular. You don't believe in God. You don't...

SENDAK: No, I don't.

GROSS: Yeah. And I think having friends who die, getting older, getting closer toward the end of life tests people's faith and it also tests people's atheism. It sounds like your atheism is staying strong.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SENDAK: Is what?

GROSS: Staying strong.

SENDAK: Yes. I'm not unhappy about becoming old. I'm not unhappy about what must be. It makes me cry only when I see my friends go before me and life is emptied. I don't believe in an afterlife, but I still fully expect to see my brother again. And it's like a dream life. I am reading a biography of Samuel Palmer, which is written by a woman in England. I can't remember her name. And it's sort of how I feel now, when he was just beginning to gain his strength as a creative man and beginning to see nature. But he believed in God, you see, and in heaven, and he believed in hell. Goodness gracious, that must have made life much easier. It's harder for us nonbelievers.

But, you know, there's something I'm finding out as I'm aging that I am in love with the world. And I look right now, as we speak together, out my window in my studio and I see my trees and my beautiful, beautiful maples that are hundreds of years old, they're beautiful. And you see I can see how beautiful they are. I can take time to see how beautiful they are. It is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music. You know, I don't think I'm rationalizing anything. I really don't. This is all inevitable and I have no control over it. "Bumble-ardy" was a combination of the deepest pain and the wondrous feeling of coming into my own and it took a long time. It took a very long time, but it's genuine. Unless I'm crazy. I could be crazy and you could be talking to a crazy person.

GROSS: I don't think so.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SENDAK: I don't know anymore and I don't care.