Starting at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s, in an unidentified country in an undetermined year, in José Saramago’s new novel, “Death. José Saramago prefaces his newly translated novella, Death with Interruptions, with two epigraphs: a prediction and a supposition. “We will know less and less. Ted Gioia reviews Death With Interruptions by Jose Saramago at Great Books Guide.
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Why are there exactly “forty volumes of universal history”? Then there is the writing.
Although originally intending merely to analyze this man and discover why he is unique, death eventually becomes infatuated with him, enough so that she takes on human form to meet him. Retrieved 30 January My All-Time Favorite Authors.
I thought it would be hard to follow, yet somehow Saramago makes it clear who is speaking. Saramago makes her sympathetic, as she confronts a problem she has never encountered before: All this is pleasant enough, but nowhere in satirical first half of Death with Interruptions does Saramago instill confidence that he is allowing his imagination to lead, and so he never arrives anywhere new or unexpected.
He describes a government hounded by industry lobbies: Upon visiting him, she plans to personally give him the letter; instead, she falls in love with him, and, by doing so, she becomes even more human-like. His major players include the government, the church, the mafia, or maphia, as they are called herethe hospitals and hospices, and various trade associations of undertakers, grave-diggers, etc.
Yet as more and more institutions—nursing homes, hospitals, funeral parlors, insurance companies, churches—are affected, the weight of this new deathless state becomes increasingly difficult to bear. For instance, having related an anecdote concerning a family that seems rather irrelevant to the overall story, the narrator comments: I was fascinated to see what problem would pop up next and how the affected parties would solve it.
Many of his sentences are written in a style almost akin to stream of consciousness. Thanks for the excellent review. For instance, having related an anecdote concerning a family that seems rather irrelevant to the overall story, the narrator comments:. Sometimes his books proceed like experiments undertaken by a crazed social engineer with a hypertrophied sense of the ironic.
People continue to age, suffer from poor health, get shot, have accidents; but they all linger on. Contact Ted Gioia at tedgioia hotmail. This primes us for an allusion to a character in Saramago’s earlier novel, the Borgesian love story All the Names. Saramago avoids using quotations to signify speech, instead relying on inline text, and the usage of capitalization to signify the start of a new speaker’s words.
Tricks and treats
You chuckle at the plight of the professionals who depend on death for their livelihood—at the gravediggers and the hospital directors and the funeral homes and the insurance companies, at their conferences and their pleading letters to the state. What are the implications for the structure of society as we know it? I will definitely be adding this one to my list!
Saramago tackles these questions and more as this incredibly unique and creative tale unfolds. I, too, worried about his style being inaccessible and inherruptions pleasantly surprised!
Death With Interruptions by Jose Saramago
We are now back in Fredric March territory, and the focus shifts from the macro level of the first half of the book to the specific situation of a small cast of zaramago. Yet in the second half of the novel, Saramago shifts gears entirely. I have only read Blindness, a fantastic book, but mean to read more Saramago and your post reminds me why! I found myself constantly delighted by what I read. His preferred narrative voice is marked by a smugness, false humility and aloofness that would infuriate you if you ran into it in real life.
The embargo on death comes to a sudden halt midway through the book, and people start dying again. The novel becomes ingerruptions extraordinary romance, joking and yet deadly serious in its mythic elan. Here daeth cellist sits reading in the park:. The common citizens, however, generally enjoy their newfound immortality. The interaction between these two translucent characters is never solid enough to afford the reader a grip, a way to enter into it.
We are given no backstory and scarcely a glimpse into his head.
Those who ought to die because of extreme sickness or injury remain on this side, in a state known as “suspended life or, as they preferred to call it, arrested death”. It contains music, and a dog, and the ever-present narrator, who admits disarmingly to “taking advantage of the reader’s credulity, and leaping over the respect owed to the logic of events”.
I hope you enjoy whichever you start with! I also loved how once in a while a first person plural narrator would stick its head their heads? It sounds like I need to grab this one as well, as the synopsis sounds so very intriguing to me. A means of finally killing people, and relieving families of the burden of their catatonic kin, is devised and implemented by an underground group known only as the maphia the ‘ph’ is chosen to avoid any confusion with the more sinister Mafia.
The book, based in an unnamed, landlocked country at a point in the unspecified past, opens with the end of death. Apparently, about the same way the heroine of a commercial romance novel would. The industry develops so quickly that the government itself becomes beholden to the maphioso, even bringing it to the brink of war with its neighbors. A decentring feature of this long-established style is that when people speak in sentences themselves containing commas, you are not at first quite sure when the speech has ended and the narrator’s voice has resumed, Is it here, you think, No, it’s later on, it must be here, I reckon, you see how tricky this can be.
All this is narrated in Saramago’s customary exquisite deadpan, with his surfeit of happy invention and comically precise offhand detail.