Searching for title of a story where time runs backward. Story begins with people digging up a corpse, it "heals", becomes younger, "unmarries", becomes a youth, baby, and is ultimately inserted into his mother's womb. Read this many years back.

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    You seemed to say that FuzzyBoots' answer was the one you remembered, but on the off chance it's not it, another possibility is Time's Arrow by Martin Amis, about a consciousness inhabiting the body of a Nazi and experiencing his life backwards. – Hypnosifl Oct 28 '16 at 21:22
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    If you have the rest of your day to throw away, you may try to look in TVTROPES WARNING tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MerlinSickness , which is the relevant trope for aging backwards. – b_jonas Nov 13 '16 at 18:22

Is this possibly Fritz Leiber's "The Man Who Never Grew Young"?

Emphasis mine

The protagonist lives in a world reversed from our own, and yet strangely outside the universal process where people age in reverse (which has been termed by other works of fantasy or science fiction, Merlin sickness, after the Merlin of T. H. White’s Once and Future King). Time itself, and human history, is also in reverse (hinted perhaps to be the effect of some experimental weapon or outcome of the Cold War). The protagonist has lived through this reversal (but perceived it as moving forwards like our perception of time) from the twentieth century to the looming end of human history, which is of course its beginning from our perspective – the ‘last’ civilization, Egypt, having endured for millennia, has now faded away (“I, who have seen king Cheops’ men take down the Great Pyramid block by block and return it to the hills), leaving only a dwindling population on the Nile as more and more leave it into Africa. The reversal of history proves surprisingly poetic – even more, human life as aging in reverse. The protagonist observed one such birth – a period of grief followed by disinterment of a body, to which life returns, “an old man with a long life before him”. What follows is life growing younger – “the sloughing of wisdom and responsibility, the plunge into a period of lovemaking and breathless excitement, the carefree years before the end” – and ultimately, the return to the mother – “And we grow new and forget and blindly seek a mother”.


Searching for title of a story where time runs backward.

"Time of Passage", a short story by J. G. Ballard; first published in Science Fantasy #63, February 1964, available at the Internet Archive. Any of these covers look familiar?

Story begins with people digging up a corpse,

A clock tolled from the chapel among the cypresses. Working swiftly, they scooped out the soft earth, piling it into a neat cone at the grave's head. A few minutes later, when the sexton arrived with the principal mourners, the polished teak of the coffin was exposed, and Biddle jumped down on to the lid and scraped away the damp earth clinging to its brass rim.

The ceremony was brief and the twenty mourners, led by Falkman's sister, a tall white-haired woman with a narrow autocratic face, leaning on her husband's arm, soon returned to the chapel. Biddle gestured to his son. They jerked the coffin out of the ground and loaded it on to a cart, strapping it down under the harness. Then they heaped the earth back into the grave and relaid the squares of turf.

it "heals",

So James Falkman made his arrival. For the next week he lay quietly in his bedroom, his strength increasing hourly, and managed to eat his first meals prepared by his sister. She sat in the blackwood chair, her mourning habit exchanged for a gray woolen dress, examining him critically.

becomes younger,

He now held himself erect, his gray hair sprouting luxuriantly, here and there touched by black flecks, jaw jutting firmly from sun-tanned cheeks.


The years of their marriage were Falkman's happiest. With each successive summer Marion became slimmer and more youthful, her red hair a brilliant diadem that stood out among the crowds in the street when she came to see him. They would walk home arm in arm, in the summer evenings pause among the willows by the river to embrace each other like lovers.

Indeed, their happiness became such a byword among their friends that over two hundred guests attended the church ceremony celebrating the long years of their marriage. As they knelt together at the altar before the priest Marion seemed to Falkman like a demure rose.

This was the last night they were to spend together. Over the years Falkman had become less interested in his work at the stock exchange, and the arrival of older and more serious men had resulted in a series of demotions for him. Many of his friends were facing similar problems. Harold Caldwell had been forced to resign his professorship and was now a junior lecturer, taking post-graduate courses to familiarize himself with the great body of new work that had been done in the previous thirty years. Sam Banbury was a waiter at the Swan Hotel.

Marion went to live with her parents, and the Falkman's apartment, to which they had moved some years earlier after the house was closed and sold, was let to new tenants. Falkman, whose tastes had become simpler as the years passed, took a room in a hostel for young men, but he and Marion saw each other every evening. He felt increasingly restless, half conscious that his life was moving toward an inescapable focus, and often thought of giving up his job.

becomes a youth,

His father was openly critical of him for leaving his job, but the hostility between them gradually subsided as he more and more began to dominate Falkman, restricting his freedom and reducing his pocket money, even warning him not to play with certain of his friends. In fact, going to live with his parents had taken Falkman into an entirely new world.


By now he was beginning to experience the first difficulties in both walking and feeding himself. He tottered about clumsily, his small piping voice tripping over his tongue. Steadily his vocabulary diminished until he knew only his mother's name. When he could no longer stand upright she would carry him in her arms, feeding him like an elderly invalid. His mind clouded, a few constants of warmth and hunger drifting through it hazily. As long as he could, he clung to his mother.

and is ultimately inserted into his mother's womb.

Shortly afterward, Falkman and his mother visited the lying-in hospital for several weeks. On her return Mrs. Falkman remained in bed for a few days, but gradually she began to move about more freely, slowly shedding the additional weight accumulated during her confinement.

Some nine months after she returned from the hospital, a period during which she and her husband thought constantly of their son, the shared tragedy of his approaching death, a symbol of their own imminent separation, bringing them closer together, they went away on their honeymoon.

P.S. According to a comment by the OP, this is the story he was looking for.

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    That's the one! And I can't believe it's a Ballard I read years ago, and still own. I'm digging it out later tonight.I recognize all those Ballard covers, as I have either all of his original editions, or reprints. Everything he ever wrote after Judith Merrill opened that door to me in her early Best SF series. Read the Lieber, a great story but not the one. Tried the Dick, but he's never been my cuppa. Sladek pinned the reason down for me in his parodies of major SF writers. If you haven't read them, do. What a gas! Thanks to all who (re)opened my mind. – Brent Hig Nov 7 '16 at 0:50
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    Note to all: the above confirmation comment by "Brent Hig" is from a different account than the one that asked the question. However, from the moderator tools available to me I can confirm that the two accounts belong to the same user. – Null Nov 7 '16 at 14:55

It could be "Counter-Clock World" by Phillip K. Dick, but I read it a long time ago and the details are hazy.

The story takes place in a (then-future) fictional 1998, and centers on Anarch Peak, a black religious leader who had died in 1971 and is expected to rise soon. Sebastian Hermes, an owner of a small Vitarium (a business that digs up the dead and gives them the treatment they need before returning them to society), discovers Peak's resurrection is imminent. After accidentally discovering the burial place of Peak, he decides, against the law, to dig up the body before the Anarch awakes. (As with contemporary controversies about brain death, it seems not to be judged morally significant if a heartbeat can be heard, but it is illegal to dig anyone up before they start talking, which suggests resumed brain function is a marker of "old-birth.")

  • Wow, you guy(s) are speedy! The emphasized part in the Leiber answer sounds just like what I recall. Now I gotta find it. Great site! Thanks. – Brent Hig Oct 27 '16 at 18:50
  • @BrentHig It you click on the checkmark by the voting buttons (which would be my answer below ^_^), you can accept the answer. Or you can hold off a few days until you verify. – FuzzyBoots Oct 27 '16 at 18:58
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    @BrentHig You can read more excerpts from "The Man Who Never Grew Young" in this answer, or you can read the whole story for free at the Internet Archive (click here for download options). – user14111 Oct 27 '16 at 22:44

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