Death with Interruptions
Jose Saramago, , trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa. . Harcourt, $24 (238pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101274-9
Saramago’s philosophical page-turner hinges on death taking a holiday. And, Saramago being Saramago, he turns what could be the stuff of late-night stoner debate into a lucid, playful and politically edgy novel of ideas. For reasons initially unclear, people stop dying in an unnamed country on New Year’s Day. Shortly after death begins her break (death is a woman here), there’s “a catastrophic collapse” in the funeral industry; disruption in hospitals of “the usual rotational process of patients coming in, getting better or dying”; and general havoc. There’s much debate and discussion on the link between death, resurrection and the church, and while “the clandestine traffic of the terminally ill” into bordering countries leads to government collusion with the criminal “self-styled maphia,” death falls in love with a terminally ill cellist. Saramago adds two satisfying cliffhangers—how far can he go with the concept, and will death succumb to human love? The package is profound, resonant and—bonus—entertaining.
Reviewed on: 07/21/2008