Robyn's Reviews > Death with Interruptions

Death with Interruptions by José Saramago
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Nov 08, 2009

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Read in November, 2009

** spoiler alert ** The premise is deeply compelling: what happens when no one in a specific country dies? At first, you wouldn't think this a bad thing, but interestingly the story details many of the problems inherent with living forever. Simply put, it's a disaster. The modern economy depends upon life ending at some point.

The novel also addresses moral issues. Death is suspended in one country, but not in others. That means that if a person who is meant for death crosses into another country (or is brought across by family), then that person immediately dies. The moral question thus arises of whether one's family has the right to decide when "enough is enough" and should help end a loved one's life.

To the author's credit, these types of moral questions do not weigh the novel down or turn the tale into an allegory of assisted suicide. Instead, the author's narrative tone of a mere reporter, not a commenter, allows the questions to be raised in a subtle way.

The story takes a bit of a turn when the character of death (with a small "d") becomes the focus, personified as a woman. Specifically, death becomes obsessed with one particular man who seems to have cheated her by not dying when he was supposed to. She takes the body of a middle aged woman in order to get to know this man better and ends up falling in love with him and seemingly renouncing her role as the ender of life.

It was at this point that I really lost the thread of the novel. Oh, I understood what was happening, but I didn't understand why. It was not clear what death's feelings were about this man and what exactly lead to her final decision at the novel's end. Death falls in love? Nope, just didn't get it.

My other trouble comes from the syntax of the translation. Run-on sentences and heavy comma usage! Ack! It made for difficult reading at points and somewhat detracted from the novel's narrative.
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