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Death with Interruptions Paperback – September 2, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Few writers work at the top of the game in their mid-80s, but with Death with Interruptions, Jose Saramago delivers a brief allegory long on shrewd social commentary. His work has consistently been compared to that of Franz Kafka and George Orwell, and the dark humor here only sharpens Saramago's satirical cudgel. Margaret Jull Costa's translation reins in the author's difficult style—dialogue whose attribution is rarely clear and missing punctuation, pages-long sentences and paragraphs, characters known only by their function in society—and brings Saramago's genius to the page. Despite one critic's feeling that Saramago is "pushing us away" (New York Times Book Review), the author's risk taking—after all, he posits death as an elegant, lonely woman questioning her own modus operandi—pays big dividends.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780547247885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547247885
  • ASIN: 0547247885
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JOSE SARAMAGO is one of the most acclaimed writers in the world today. He is the author of numerous novels, including All the Names, Blindness, and The Cave. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By D. Kanigan VINE VOICE on September 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Saramago takes us on another haunting and chilling "what-if" journey (similar to Blindness & Seeing). This story is set in an unnamed country in modern Western Europe. On the first day of the New Year, no one dies -for unknown reasons. The populace rejoices over reaching the eternal goal.

"Humanity's greatest dream since the beginning of time, the happy enjoyment of eternal life here on earth, had become a gift within the grasp of everyone, like the sun that rises every day and the air that we breathe."

And then reality strikes - religious leaders lose their grounding ("if there was no death, there could be no resurrection, and if there was no resurrection, then there would be no point in having a church") - funeral homes and life insurance companies have lost their reason for existence ("then, without warning, the tap from which had flowed a constant, generous supply of the terminally dying was turned off") - hospitals and nursing homes start overflowing with the terminally ill - and the dark side of humanity (rearing its ugly head in "its enormous capacity for survival") begins to capitalize on the opportunity by transporting the terminally ill (for a fee) into bordering countries where Death continues to exist on its customary path.

The conclusion is eventually reached after several months that if "we don't start dying again, we have no future."

There are three distinct plot lines in this book. (1) "What-if" Death stops or is 'interrupted' (for 8 months). (2) "What-if" Death restarts (but under new conditions which I won't give away) and (3) "What-if" `death' (who comes 'alive' as a beautiful 36-year old woman executioner) fails to execute on a single victim (a middle aged cellist) on the required "due date.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mark Wilson on September 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I haven't enjoyed a novel this much for quite some time. Saramago begins with a simple scenario (What if people stopped dying?), then takes it to riotous extremes. This results in a potpourri of profundity, absurdity and laugh-out-loud humor, all presented in a minimalist punctuation style that reads like nothing I've encountered previously. Very highly recommended.

The Nobel committee obviously got this one right.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on September 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"The following day, no one died." Thus begins Jose Saramago's latest masterpiece, a quirky, whimsical, and utterly enthralling tale called DEATH WITH INTERRUPTIONS. Written in Saramago's characteristic style - dense, run-on sentences filled with multiple digressive asides and dialog unseparated by line breaks or quotation marks - the book stands as an offbeat meditation on death and the manner in which humanity copes (or fails to cope) with it.

DEATH WITH INTERRUPTIONS consists of two loosely linked segments, the latter ultimately looping back to form a perfect circle with the former. In the first half of the book, death is an impersonal presence, noticeable only for its absence within the geographic borders of an unspecified country. Saramago here recalls the premise of the 1934 Frederic March movie, DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, only this time the holiday lasts far more than three days. As the number of-dying-but-not-dead bodies mounts, the country's various institutions are forced to deal with the implications of a cessation of death. Their reactions give Saramago free satirical reign over the situation as he takes humorous, low-key shots at everything from government, hospitals, and the funeral industry to insurance companies, religious institutions, and the maphia (his spelling).

Death returns in the book's second half, at first in the form of a rather scratchy, hand-written letter announcing its return at a specific date and time. The initial effect is cataclysmic as several months' worth of people accumulated at death's door instantly pass through en masse. Yet even as the natural order of things rights itself, death intervenes and decides (in an apparent fit of boredom) to change the way things are done.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago's latest novel, in the tradition of three of my favorite writers known for impressive first lines, Albert Camus, Toni Morrison and Herman Melville, begins with the intriguing sentence: "The following day, no one died." This allegory for modern times takes place in an unnamed country, with characters, most of whom have no names and where even death, like the other characters, does not even merit an upper case "D" to begin her name. Yes, she is female, composed only of a skull and bones, although she can transform herself into a reasonably attractive woman, and never of course sleeps. With death's moratorium on death, some results are immediate and obvious. The cardinal of the catholic church is one of the first to be upset. With no death, there is no resurrection. And with no resurrection, there is no church. Funeral homes are faced with an economic melt-down since they can now only offer burials or cremations to dogs, cats, canaries and other animals since animals were not affected by this stay on death. Nursing homes and hospitals are overrun with patients who cannot die and cannot live.

Of course something has to happen to throw a monkey wrench into what appears to be eternal life as indeed it does although this is one of those novels where a review should not be a plot summary. (Actually no review should be just a plot summary.) Just let it be said that Saramago adroitly introduces into his narrative a mediocre cellist-- who has a fascinating encounter with death-- who admits that he is no rostropovich and whose favorite pastime is playing bach's suite number six for unaccompanied cello at night in his apartment.
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