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Death with Interruptions [Kindle Edition]

Jose Saramago , Margaret Jull Costa
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago's brilliant new novel poses the question -- what happens when the grim reaper decides there will be no more death?
 
On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors. Among the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration—flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home—families are left to care for the permanently dying, life-insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral parlors are reduced to arranging burials for pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and parrots.

Death sits in her chilly apartment, where she lives alone with scythe and filing cabinets, and contemplates her experiment: What if no one ever died again? What if she, death with a small d, became human and were to fall in love?

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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.

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

Product Details

  • File Size: 429 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0151012741
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 2, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003T0GBQK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,152 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, Whimsical & Absurd 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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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death, Be Not Fickle. A Perfect 10! 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
5.0 out of 5 stars death, be not proud! 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read
While it takes a bit to get accustomed to the format of the book, i laughed out loud at segments. I thought it was an ingenious theme. Read more
Published 1 month ago by LINDA ALYCE NICKELL
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected...
The first have of the book was a slow read, and did not really pick up and get exciting until the middle or so. Then its a very dark, morbid in a way... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Tia Rantula
1.0 out of 5 stars Death With Interruptions isn't really a novel but more like incoherent...
Death With Interruptions isn't really a novel but more like incoherent ramblings by the author about death. Read more
Published 2 months ago by lazza
4.0 out of 5 stars What would happen if death hung up her scythe?
For a short period of time in an unknown country, death, quite literally, stops. Jose Saramago speculates on the socioeconomic ramifications of what happens in a world where death... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nick N.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I read this straight through - It was very compelling, and Saramago's writing is so poetic, almost hypnotizing. His writing reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Published 4 months ago by claudia
4.0 out of 5 stars tour de force!
Great book!!!!
I thought that the author overdid it a bit and the writing was challenging to read at times but it was worth it.
Published 4 months ago by mario testani
2.0 out of 5 stars Uninvolving
In José Saramago's novels, there often seems to have been a `what if?' question that prompted the writing of the story--for example, in his justly acclaimed (and probably... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bryan Byrd
5.0 out of 5 stars Artful
Unexpected as a mystery. Much more literary. Definitely an author enjoying his ideas thoroughly, and you get to come along for the ride.
Published 7 months ago by Singing Lemur
2.0 out of 5 stars Death takes another holiday
Jose Saramago is good at envisioning the threatened breakdown of society due to a game changing event (see his masterwork Blindness). Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Bill Elliott
Mr Saramago begins with a very interesting fictional concept concerning a different experience of death, but the implementation of that concept is rather disappointing, and in some... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Bill Elliott
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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.

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