- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 6, 2008)
- ISBN-10: 0151012741
- ASIN: B0029LHWK4
- Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,548,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Death with Interruptions Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 6, 2008
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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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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
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The writing style was unconventional with paragraph long sentences and non-traditional capitalization. I loved the story, the personification of Death and the twists the storyline took. This book is thought-provoking and a bit sentimental. I highly recommend Death with Interruptions. This book was so well written that I will be seeking out all the writings of Jose Saramago.
I thought - oh a book about Death taking a holiday and all the repercussions that result from it - surely a funny story. Surely. So there I am - trying to make it a comedy when it's really not as funny as I had predicted. Nonetheless, Death with Interruptions is indeed the epitome of black comedy.
The idea in itself is humorous - mainly because it can never happen and we are all safe from it - that death does not occur and the people live on. Saramago takes a very serious and careful look at the logistics if this would occur. The funeral profession would become obsolete whereas the Skilled Nursing Facilities would boon due to folks checking in but never checking out. Imagine a nursing home the size of the Pentagon! And all of this explained to the reader through some very unusual discussions.
While I enjoyed the story and how the idea was approached, I did find Saramago's style of writing to be disconcerting - he runs the dialogues together, removing the familiar format of double quotations and identifiers. Instead, he separates them all by simple commas and identifies the speaker via the inline text, you find that you have to slow it down a notch and perhaps even re-read a section in order to orient yourself as to who is saying what. It's not too difficult and sometimes it can be refreshing to read an experimental method such as what Saramago is known for.
The story takes place in an unnamed country but for some reason, I kept picturing England, and starting at midnight of January one, death does not occur for the people. Those on the verge of death, linger on and those who are involved in horrendous accidents, somehow survive. The hospitals are overwhelmed as well as other health care facilities. The churches are at a loss as to how to work this into their message of resurrection. What now? So everyone is complaining, and nobody is dying. However it appears this enigma only affects this country - once you cross the border...well death is working just fine.
By now, you can probably tell that death is actually a character, a manifestation that is even given a gender - can you guess? Death comes as a female and she's surprisingly empathetic, for death that is.
Death's message is quite interesting - she's a likeable character after all. And arrangements are made to put things back in order with some minor adjustments, like maybe announcing the person's death (via a form letter) a week before it's occurrence. Not exactly the best option because now folks are freaking out in anticipation of the daily post!
So while you keep one eye out for the mailman, pick up Jose Saramago's Death with Interruptions and enjoy rumbling around the mind of death and question her reasons for experimenting with such a complex albeit frail species.
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. Surely nothing, as the brilliant film director Ingmar Bergman would agree, reminds us more of death than any one of bach's suites for unaccompanied cello. Additionally the author's messenger of death appears as a mailman-- who in this instance does not ring twice-- not a new device although an effective one. Joyce Carol Oates, who if there is any justice should win the Nobel Prize for Literature herself, sends death for Marilyn Monroe in her incomparable novel BLONDE as a messenger riding a bicycle. In this novel death wishes that she had used the death head moth, which has on the back of its thorax a pattern resembling a human skull, as her messenger, a chilling thought.
Mr. Saramago's humor is both subtle and wry. Death chides her partner-in-crime the sythe for being lazy because he often spends all his days leaning against a wall. Since she consists of only bones, death ordinarily would not be able to lick envelopes-- although she has all kinds of powers and can move through walls-- but she takes advantage of self-sealing envelopes for her mail-outs.
Literary critics have said that often winning the nobel prize dries up the creative juices of writers. While that case may be made for some authors, it does not hold true in this instance. DEATH WITH INTERRUPTIONS is a fantastic allegory that criticizes the church, the government and familes who are too selfish to care for sick and dying relatives. It is also a beautiful tribute to the power of love as the ending, which is as powerful as the first sentence, illustrates.
Mr. Saramago indeed writes like no other author.