What kind of question would you like answered?

Q: The last line in TFiOS is important, but what if it does not translate properly into another language? Is that whole idea of marriage going to be lost?

Yes. This is inevitable in translation. (Many other lines that are a big deal in English may also get lost in translation.)

But here’s what is often overlooked: Just as there are inevitably losses in the translation process, there are also opportunities. There are ways in which a translation can become richer than the original text.

This is an extension of books belonging to their readers and novels being inherently collaborative. We think, “Well, the author’s original text is the ideal text,” but A. there is no actual “original text” because the entire process of creating the novel is collaborative, and B. it is perfectly possible for a translator to improve an author’s text—at least in places—by working thoughtfully with a different set of linguistic tools.

Q: Typically, comedies end in marriage and tragedies end in death. When Hazel says, “I do” at the end, should that be interpreted as a marriage, therefore hope?

Well, I was definitely aware that Shakespeare’s comedies end in marriage and his tragedies end in death, and I was rather fond of the idea that my book could end (symbolically, at least) in both.

Q: Why did you end the book so abruptly like Peter Van Houten did with AIA?

I was not under the impression I ended it abruptly.

Q: So did Augustus’s death occur prior to what is happening at the end of the book (a wedding)?

The central thing that Hazel has to realize at the end of the book is that she has been wrong all along about how she imagines her relationships with people she loves. She wasn’t wrong about being a grenade (although we’re all grenades), but she was wrong about how that should shape her behavior.

More importantly but in the same vein, Hazel has to realize that her mom was wrong when she said, “I won’t be a mother anymore.” The truth is, after Hazel dies (assuming she dies), her mom will still be her mom, just as my grandmother is still my grandmother even though she has died. As long as either person is still alive, that relationship survives. (It changes, but it survives.)

So the dual significant to “I do,” to me is 1. she’s realizing that she can still love Augustus and that there is still value in that love, and 2. there is a permanence to the present tense. An infinity within the finite. The present tense is always present. It is always happening now.

(This can obviously be overread: They aren’t really married. You can’t—AND SHOULDN’T—marry a dead person. But I wanted to use the language of that ceremony to connect them to each other, to give her the chance to say the words she’ll probably never get to say in a church while wearing a dress, and to acknowledge that their love was real and important and, in its way, lasting.)

Q: What does the present tense of the last line signify?

It signifies something that is still happening, that is continuing, that is ongoing, that is not over.

(I’m pretty sure that is what the present tense always signifies?)

Q: You once mentioned that the last sentence in the book is the biggest spoiler. Why do you believe that to be true?

1. It’s present tense.

2. What do you say at your wedding?