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.)
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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.
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