Kathryn's Reviews > Death with Interruptions

Death with Interruptions by José Saramago
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's review
Nov 11, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009
Read in November, 2009

It did not take me long at all to read this small book, and I immensely enjoyed it; reading José Saramago (even in translation) is always a treat, and I am used to his books having a distinct lack of punctuation (no quotation marks for dialogue, precious little capitalization, etc.)

“The following day, no one died.” This is January 1, in the nameless quasi-European country where Saramago’s books are usually set; and death (with a small ‘d’) has apparently taken a holiday. No one dies, which is not to say that everyone is suddenly blessedly immortal; for those who should die (by illness, accident, old age, whatever) simply do not die, but just continue alive. (In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, when Eos asked Zeus for the mortal Tithonus to be immortal, she forgot to ask for eternal youth for him, and eventually discarded him when old age rendered him immobile, but undying.) This development deeply consternates the funeral home directors (who are reduced to working with household pets to survive), the hospitals and nursing homes, and the Roman Catholic Church (one must die to be resurrected; so without death, one cannot have eternal life).

It turns out that death (small ‘d’) is only that small subsection of Death who takes care of human deaths in this landlocked country of ten million souls, for those who are outside the borders still die in the normal way.

Essentially, this book is two books; one made up of the reaction of the country to the cessation (and eventual resumption) of death, and the second made up of death and her (death is female) rationale and motivations and eventual problems. I am not sure I like for the book to be so divided; but overall, I do like the book, though I wish the book had returned to the country as a whole, instead of suddenly narrowing down to one or two characters.

I will be returning this book to its owner on Tuesday night (at the Third Tuesday Book Club meeting), and I am very happy that he lent this book to me; thanks, J!

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