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[58] The Double – Jose Saramago

The Double tells the tale of a man whose nature inclines him more to melancholy, to a dreamy consciousness, to reverie, and to an exaggerated awareness of the transience of life, as he finds himself caught in the labyrinth of human relationships. Tertuliano Maximo Afonso is a secondary school teacher who feels called upon to teach the most serious subject–history. He might be burnt out from teaching, from the way it was taught in a perfunctory manner that it was not appreciated. The 39 years old has reasons to be depressed: after his unusually peaceful divorce he lives alone, in a penumbra of nostalgic temperament. A colleague suggests a comedy video that might detract him from the ennui–Maximo Afonso instead watches in utter astonishment an actor in the movie who looks exactly like him. Even though he is under no obligation to go look for the person who is a copy of him (or of whom he is a copy), and they won’t be savvy of each other’s existence, let alone crossing each other’s path, he decides to pursue the name (and more) out of sheer curiosity.

It is not until Maximo Afonso is hip deep in his search do I realize how deftly Jose Saramago uses idea of a double to bring to the nub of matter. Afonso is more than in depression: he has no clue of what might have caused him to plunge into depression. Sadly, he is an emotional drifter. Not only is he incorrigibly out of touch with his emotions and feelings, which is undeniable from his unusual equanimity toward his divorce, sans the usual finger-pointing and melodramas, he is also at a loss with words and with language. Despite his being overwhelmed by the existence of a double, who dismisses the resemblance as a banal coincidence, Maximo Afonso occupies himself in strenuous effort of thoughts, in circuitous hypotheses and in the numerous possible outcomes of confronting the double. His apathy toward his girlfriend, whom he makes an accomplice in actions of which origins and causes she knows nothing, constitutes a human flaw–one of moral cowardice that renders him silent and indifferent to people around him. He is slowly given away to a long process of continuous decadence that has afflicted his own loving feelings and replenished his heart with only distraction and indifference. The interlocution between Maximo Afonso and his Common Sense demonstrates his reluctance to be indiscreet about the investigation and his inability to nail his thoughts and feelings in words. However he struggles, he always finds himself outside the feelings he so ingenuously hopes to describe. The Double offers a glimpse of the impacting consequence of a moral weakness–out of fear and cowardice truth is thwarted to be revealed.

One Response

  1. I’m about to start reading THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY…

    Have you read it?

    Did you like it?

    How is your mouth?

    Where are my Sandy and Faye CD’s?!?!?

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