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Why Anthony Bourdain’s Narration of New ‘Parts Unknown’ Is So Sad

Bourdain seemed to acknowledge that there are other stories beyond his to tell.

CNN

The final season of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown premiered on CNN last Sunday, and though it’s not the final episode, the premiere was the last episode to feature Bourdain’s unmistakable narration. Filmed on location in Kenya, one particular excerpt has fans of the late television personality in tears.

In the clip, Bourdain, who committed suicide earlier this year, spoke to comedian W. Kamau Bell about how fortunate he was to do what he does for a living.

“I fucking pinch myself because I cannot fucking believe that I get to do this or see this, ever, or that I ever would,” Bourdain said while thinking on his success late in life. “Because at 44 years old, dunking fries, I knew with absolute certainty that I would never, ever see Rome much less this.”

The saddest bit of narration came towards the end of the episode when Bourdain was reflecting on what becomes of our stories when we’re done living them, and ultimately asking, who should tell them.

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“Who gets to tell the stories? This is a question asked often. The answer, in this case, for better or for worse, is I do. At least this time out. I do my best. I look; I listen. But in the end ― I know ― it’s my story. Not Kamau’s. Not Kenya’s or Kenyans.’ Those stories are yet to be heard,” he said.

Bourdain had a knack for being a thoughtful traveler. Unlike a lot of people who get to do what he did for a living, Bourdain was always asking the really challenging questions about his place in all of it. That’s why the quote hits so hard. On one hand, it feels like Bourdain is saying that he has a million more stories left in him, but on the other hand, it’s a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that part of him was letting go and allowing others to tell their stories.