Lincoln In the Bardo

Matt McKeon

Well-Known Member
Aug 25, 2019
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In February of 1862, eleven year old William Lincoln, "Willie" died of typhoid fever, a tragedy that crushed both Abraham and Mary Lincoln. The grief stricken President stayed out most of one night at the crypt where the boy was entombed.

From this fact comes "Lincoln in the Bardo." Bardo meaning purgatory and the Lincoln being Willie. The unquiet spirits of the graveyard flock, gossip, quarrel, observe and wait to be delivered. With one exception, they are convinced they are still alive, their coffins are "sick-boxes" and some compelling business keeps them, one man to return to his young wife, one to recover from his suicide attempt, another rages to achieve revenge, another constantly justifying their neglect of their children. Young Willie waits for the return of his father.

Themes of guilt, atonement, grief, acceptance, redemption and resistance make this an interesting and recommended read.


Staff member
May 12, 2019
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Thanks for cross-posting this here.
Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel: Saunders, George -
Lincoln in the Bardo - Wikipedia
Much of the novel takes place in the bardo, a Tibetan term for the Buddhist "intermediate state" between death and reincarnation when the consciousness is not connected to a body. In Saunders's conception, the "ghosts" that inhabit the bardo are "disfigured by desires they failed to act upon while alive" and are threatened by permanent entrapment in the liminal space.[20] They are unaware that they have died, referring to the space as their "hospital-yard" and to their coffins as "sick-boxes".[20]
Saunders has said that, while he named the setting after Tibetan tradition, he incorporated elements of the Christian and Egyptian afterlives, so as not to be "too literal." The selection of the term "bardo", he said, was "partly to help the reader not to bring too many preconceptions to it... in a book about the afterlife, it's good to destabilize all of the existing beliefs as much as you can."[18]


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Jul 28, 2019
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I like to add..

I do not know the Oak Hill cemetery in D.C. or where the Carroll tomb is located or how many tourists visit that cemetery or the Carroll tomb but if it is not heavily visited that might be the only spot in Washington D C where you can stand where Lincoln stood, in front of the tomb. We know he visited the Carroll tomb many times and stood before it before he passed through the iron gates of the tomb to grieve over Willie. It may sound ghoulish but I bet most other places where Lincoln stood in D.C. are hard to access today.

Here it is ...


I like to add we are to late because of the book it is a tourist site;... link to the story...



There are a lot of dead people in Oak Hill Cemetery. Lately, there’s an increasing number of live people there, too. Nearly every day over the past month, one or two visitors have shown up clutching “Lincoln in the Bardo,” the new novel by George Saunders. The Georgetown cemetery is the setting for the book, which takes place over a few days in 1862, when a grieving Abraham Lincoln visited the body of his son Willie in the Carroll mausoleum there.