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Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago
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Death with Interruptions (original 2005; edition 2008)

by Jose Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa (Translator)

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1,625604,460 (3.66)34
Member:starfox
Title:Death with Interruptions
Authors:Jose Saramago
Other authors:Margaret Jull Costa (Translator)
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2008), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
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Tags:Fiction, Nationality: Portuguese

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Death with Interruptions by José Saramago (2005)

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English (49)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
For a short period of time in an unknown country, death, quite literally, stops. Jose Saramago speculates on the socioeconomic ramifications of what happens in a world where death ceases to occur and the aftermath when mortality finally returns.

The writing style took some getting used to. The author chose to narrate this tale of death in almost all lowercase with, lots, and, lots, and, lots, and, lots of commas. I did have to snicker when Saramago had the narrator make a comment on how frustrating it is when someone writes in all lowercase with numerous run-on sentences. Recommended if you are in a philosophical frame of mind. ( )
  JechtShot | Jun 30, 2014 |
Set in an unkown country with three countries bordering it. This is a witty and very clever novel that is nevertheless human an an enjoyable read. People stop dying and instead are in suspension. We follow the meetings of government, philosophers and the church on how to deal with this and we hear about the problems undertakers are having, what role the Mafia can take and the concerns of families and hospitals. Then death returns but with a difference; death herself becomes a character in teh novel. An excellent read, well thought through, always plausible and lots of fun. Unexpected at every page turn. ( )
  Tifi | Jun 29, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Intro

I still recall that day when the newfangled, recently opened, and biggest book store in my hometown started shelving Jose Saramago’s books. There was Seeing, The Double, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, and this book, Death at Intervals. Or Death with Interruptions, which I think is the more popular edition. I didn’t realize that my fawning of the covers of these Vintage editions would lead me to my fascination of Saramago’s works and my ultimate adoration and respect for him as one would have for a loving grandfather.

Being a college student during that time, I couldn’t afford to buy all those four books. Not that I could afford them now any moment. Besides, I still have yet to find out whether I’d like Saramago’s works or not. To answer this one, I have to read one.

I picked this one for a test drive, mainly because it’s the most expensive among the four. The price of a book does not always justify the satisfaction that a reader can get from it, so you can judge my judgment later. But really, I think I picked the right book.

The Rhapsody

The novel starts with a phenomenon that has never happened in this world: no one dies on the first day of the year. This is a reason for celebration, yes? The people’s joy cannot be suppressed, for the great fear of death is taken off their shoulders.

However, the celebration doesn’t last long as the absence of death makes its presence felt. Demographics and economics face larger than life issues. The foundations of religion are greatly challenged. Schools of philosophies are debunked. People who are supposed to be dead, like people who are disemboweled or decapitated, are not able to escape life. Imagine a man eating with his entrails flowing out of his abdomen, imagine a talking head, imagine the outright incredulity and accompanying suffering of it. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

And suddenly, most probably out of a whim, death strikes back. The vacation is over, the results of the experiment are now seen. Let me make it clear that death is a character here. Yes, death with a lowercase: a woman with the traditional skeletal frame covered with black cloak. With the capacity to think, to go to town, to have conversations, to complain. She is armed with a scythe, of course, who is also a character in the novel. I say who, not which, because the scythe is death’s only confidante.

Death decides to try a new experiment. She now takes life from people by sending short notices to the ones who are next on the death list. Yes, this is a literal list, and death even has index cards à la old-fashioned libraries that contain each person’s biographical information. Which makes this book a reading àpropos to All the Names, another Saramago novel that features a city registrar following the life of an ordinary woman.

And I digress. Yes, death starts writing these letters. She gives a personal touch to each one, an attempt to spice up the endless routine of her job. Everyone should be back to normal, right? Things will be placed back to where they were. But are they?

And there is a problem. The delivery system of the feared purple letters suffers a glitch somewhere. One stubborn letter goes back to her over and over again. And death investigates.

The letter is addressed to a mediocre cellist. As much as I would like to go on, I think I should stop here. What started as musings on life and death shifts to a love story. The impossible love story of a man and death, yes, the skeleton the world has associated with the personified Death. Again, I’ll leave the rest to you. I am in no mood to spoil one of the greatest love stories ever told.

Final Notes

Listeners of classical music will be delighted to know that this novel has something in store for them. Before reading this, I have almost zero knowledge on this field. The extensive talk of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6 in some parts of the novel led me to do some research. I have always been fascinated by the cello, so it’s not really a burden to run a search at Google and YouTube. I even think that it’s a must to know how that cello suite sounds, which is we could call the book’s soundtrack.

The cello is a sophisticated and romantic instrument, and its semblance to a human being only draws me nearer to it. Not easy on the budget though. The book’s soundtrack only served to relive my cello fascination back in college. In an attempt to fulfill a musical wish, I bought a violin and took violin lessons.

Why a violin? I assumed that it would be easier to learn the cello if I know some violin, a cousin of the cello which is somehow a more convenient and cheaper alternative. Not that these instruments are cheap. Anyway, while I was in the midst of my violin journey, I realized that I could not make my violin sing because my fingers are longing for a cello. And the cello is a whole new thing, not an extension of the violin.

Now, I still haven’t bought a cello or signed up for cello lessons because I couldn’t find a convincing teacher yet. I am still looking though. If you haven’t realized it yet, all I’m saying is that this novel made me pursue things that I thought I have forgotten, things that my heart still long for. That’s how influential and life-changing this book is for me. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Silly. Death stops within a country, but continues elsewhere. Much ado about this and also when it starts again. Quite boring, and an annoying meta-narrator, who breaks in to talk about his own narration. Did not finish. ( )
  ohernaes | Apr 6, 2014 |
Saramago has an interesting run on sentence style, but I found it does not make for "light" reading. Intriguing concept, but with some unresolved plot points. Our maybe I just didn't get it? Kudos to the translator; this couldn't have been easy. ( )
  ylferif | Mar 17, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
José Saramagoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Costa, Margaret JuliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gauld, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kort, Maartje deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
We will know less and less what it means to be human.
- Book of Predictions
If, for example, you were to think more deeply about death, then it would be truly strange if, in so doing, you did not encounter new images, new linguistic fields.
- Wittgenstein
Saberemos cada vez menos o que é um ser humano.
Dedication
For Pilar, my home.
First words
The following day, no one died.
No dia seguinte ninguém morreu.
Quotations
This fact, being absolutely contrary to life's rules, provoked enormous, and in the circumstances, perfectly justifiable anxiety in people's minds, for we have only to consider that in the entire forty volumes of universal history there is no mention, not even one exemplary case, of such a phenomenon ever having occurred, for a whole day to go by, with its generous allowance of twenty-four hours, diurnal and nocturnal, matutinal and vespertine, without one death from an illness, a fatal fall, or a successful suicide, not one, not a single one.
At most, it might push them toward the place where death presumably was, but it would be pointless, futile, because at that precise moment, as unreachable as ever, she would take a step back and keep her distance.
One cannot be too careful with words, they change their minds just as people do.
By the way, we feel we must mention that death, by herself and alone, with no external help, has always killed far less than mankind has.
it makes no difference because everything will have but one ending, the ending that a part of yourself will always have to think about and which is the black stain on your hopeless humanity.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago's brilliant new novel poses the question -- what happens when the grim reaper decides there will be no more death?

On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors. Among the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration—flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home—families are left to care for the permanently dying, life-insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral parlors are reduced to arranging burials for pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and parrots.

Death sits in her chilly apartment, where she lives alone with scythe and filing cabinets, and contemplates her experiment: What if no one ever died again? What if she, death with a small d, became human and were to fall in love?

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0151012741, Hardcover)

On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors. Among the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration—flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home—families are left to care for the permanently dying, life-insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral parlors are reduced to arranging burials for pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and parrots.

Death sits in her chilly apartment, where she lives alone with scythe and filing cabinets, and contemplates her experiment: What if no one ever died again? What if she, death with a small d, became human and were to fall in love?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:04 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This, understandably, causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, funeral directors, and doctors. Among the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration - flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home - families are left to care for the permanently dying, life-insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral directors are reduced to arranging burials for pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and parrots. Death sits in her chilly apartment, where she lives alone with scythe and filing cabinets, and contemplates her experiment: What if no one ever died again? What if she, death with a small d, became human and were to fall in love?… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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