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[256] Death with Interruptions – Jose Saramago

Since that first deplorable incident, which, from the moment the world began, demonstrated the difficulties of family life, and right up until the present day, the process has remained unchanged for centuries and centuries and more centuries, repetitive, unceasing, uninterrupted unbroken, varying only in the many ways of passing from life to non-life, but basically always the same because the result was always the same. [153]

Like Blindness and his other works, Jose Saramago situates his characters in the most extraordinary condition and challenges reader to look beyond the words and focus on the thought-provoking concept that concerns the core of humanity. In Deaths with Interruptions, on New Year’s Day, in an unnamed European city, no one dies. During the eight months of the death strike, the chronically ill remain in a state of suspended life, hovering on the very edge of life. Both government and the church view the body’s immortality, which man has coveted all along in history, a challenge—a grave situation with dire consequences to social and economic stability.

. . . while the religious delegates . . . hoping to set the debate on the only dialectical terrain that interested them, that is, the explicit acceptance that death was fundamental to the existence of the kingdom of god and that, therefore, any discussion about a future without death would be not only blasphemous but absurd . . . that if there was no death, there could be no resurrection, and if there was no resurrection, then there will be no point in having a church. [28]

As the paranormal phenomenon causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors, Saramago has taken up this concept, a debate between (the advantage) life and death, as a fertile ground for playing out his incisive variations, exploring not only our fear of death but our fear of life as well. Death with Interruptions is a rhetoric from the perspective of religion, politics, and humanity that illuminates how moral values, in the event of such contingency with no precedent, are rapidly being turned on their head. The death strike stops as suddenly and mysteriously as letters, signed by death herself, that announce citizens’ death appear in their mailboxes.

The week-long pause, during which no one died and which, initially, created the illusion that nothing had, in fact, changed, came about simply because of the new rules governing the relationship between death and mortals, namely that everyone would receive prior warning that they still had a week to live . . . [136]

As people cope with the crisis by humanizing death to mitigate their fear: calling its name, demanding a frank and open dialogue with death, mocking its treachery, death itself humanizes and gives up her dominion. Death with Interruptions is absurd but meditative, asserting the advantages and shortcomings of both life and death in an allegory. It demonstrates so perfectly how people live the life but they have no part in it.

238 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

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16 Responses

  1. I love Saramago, but haven’t read this one yet. I’m pleased that it is just as thought provoking and enjoyable as his others. I hope I can find a copy soon.

  2. I’ve only read one Saramago, and that was in 2008! I really loved it though, so I should make more time to read him. The premise of this one sounds utterly fascinating – so glad to see you enjoyed it so much!

    • Saramago is not easy to read: his style can be challenging to me. What makes me continue to peruse his works is the incisive variations he renders from some very concept that is beyond our imagination and yet so close home.

  3. One of my coworkers recommended this to me, she loved it. Her book club hated it but she thought it was the best debated book club night every.

    It seems a little deep for me but extremely intriguing, I think I will give it a try.

  4. I read Blindness last fall, and it was an amazing, thought-provoking and terrifying book. James and I had a ball doing a collaborative review on it. It is my goal to read more of Saramago, and I might just start with this one.

  5. I have both this and “Blindness” in my TBR (I haven’t read any of Saramago yet). Glad you think it’s worth reading.

    I need more hours in the day to read!!

  6. […] Fyodor Dostoevsky 5. Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin 6. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco 7. Death with Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The […]

  7. […] Fyodor Dostoevsky 5. Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin 6. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco 7. Death with Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The […]

  8. […] Fyodor Dostoevsky 5. Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin 6. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco 7. Death with Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The […]

  9. […] Fyodor Dostoevsky 5. Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin 6. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco 7. Death with Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The […]

  10. […] Fyodor Dostoevsky 5. Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin 6. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco 7. Death with Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The […]

  11. […] Fyodor Dostoevsky 5. Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin 6. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco 7. Death with Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The […]

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