Jose Saramago – Death With Interruptions

 *The following information applies to the English hardcover edition. (the novel was originally published in Portuguese in 2005). Also, the edition of the book I read doesn’t have the skull on the cover.*

Author: Jose Saramago
Translator: Margaret Jull Costa

Title: Death With Interruptions
Published: 2008
Publisher: Harcourt
Length: 238 pages
Genre: Magic realism, hypothetical fiction
Target age: Young adult
Why I picked it up: I enjoy the author’s writing style
Rating: 4.5 stars

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I liked this book as much as I liked the one I previously read by the same author, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Although both novels are very different with regards to the type of story that is being told, I enjoyed them both equally.

Of course, one of the main reason I liked Death With Interruptions is because of Saramago’s unique writing style, the main feature of which is winding sentences and a lack of punctuation. I just had to mark this passage, in which a grammarian is criticizing the style of writing of a certain letter.

  …but that could be forgiven, one could even consider it a minor defect given the chaotic syntax, the absence of full stops, the complete lack of very necessary parentheses, the obsessive elimination of paragraphs, the random use of commas and, most unforgivable sin of all, the intentional and almost diabolical abolition of the capital letter, which, can you imagine, is even omitted from the actual signature of the letter and replaced by a lower-case d.

I wrote in my previous review of the interesting perspective of whoever is narrating the story. That perspective continues to crop up occasionally within this novel.

We humbly recognize that our explanations about this and much more have been sadly lacking, we confess that we are unable to provide explanations that will satisfy those demanding them, unless, taking advantage of the reader’s credulity and leaping over the respect owed to the logic of events, we were to add further unrealities to the congenital unreality of this fable…

One of the differences I noticed between this novel and the one about Jesus was the dialogue felt a lot different. Perhaps this was just me, but it felt a lot more natural and seemed to flow more like I was hearing the conversation instead of reading. This could be because I’ve gotten more used to the style. But it felt different (thought certainly not worse!) nonetheless.

I think I’ve said enough about the writing style. As opposed to the last Saramago novel I chose (I chose it because of the premise), I chose this one for the writing style but of course, the story itself was very much up to par. The first half of the novel examines how a fictional country deals when humans suddenly stop dying, which in itself made for a very fun and thoughtful read. The second half follows death (the character) as she becomes intrigued by a man who refuses to die. Both ‘stories’ were very original and creative. I wasn’t expecting the ending at all, which was a nice surprise because that rarely happens for me! I finished the book with a very satisfied feeling.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I would say I have only one complaint to note, but oddly enough it doesn’t feel like a complaint to me. The second half of the book revolves around a man who won’t die, even when death has started killing again. The reason why he will not die is never explained. This did not feel like a letdown, though. I didn’t even realize it had not been explained until I started to think of book a few days later and thought to myself, ‘Hey, how come that guy wouldn’t die?’ This omission might bother some people, but it did not bother me.

I started this book just before November and finished it just after November. That might have something to do with my participation in NaNoWriMo, but I also don’t think you can rush through Saramago’s work. You have to take it it at your own pace, piece by piece, and let it digest. If you can do that, then you will have a very enjoyable read on your hands.