Death with Interruptions: A Novel by Jose SaramagoDeath with Interruptions: A Novel by Jose Saramago

Death with Interruptions: A Novel

byJose SaramagoTranslated byMargaret Jull Costa

Paperback | August 31, 2009

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Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago's brilliant new novel asks the question - what happens when the grim reaper decides there will be no more death?&nbspOn the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course&nbspcauses 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?
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. MARGARET JULL COSTA has established herself as the premier translator of Portuguese literature into English today.
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Title:Death with Interruptions: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.62 inPublished:August 31, 2009Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0547247885

ISBN - 13:9780547247885

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from * The writing style is different, but once I got used to it, I really enjoyed the story.
Date published: 2017-06-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from pay attention! This book was difficult to stay focused on, but i still enjoyed the concept and hidden truths. To be perfectly honest i feel like i should read it again because i believe it would be easier the second time through, so all i can say is your gonna have to pay attention or else your gonna come out feeling like you missed something. good ending also.
Date published: 2010-04-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Read This Book and Fall in Love with death! OK, Death with Interruptions takes a few pages to get going, but once it does this novel is quirky, witty and profound, all at the same time. It explores what happens if death, personified as a woman, refrains from doing her job. No matter their circumstances, people simply do not die. Of course, there are implications for families of the aged, funeral directors, life insurance companies and “eventide homes” but the implications of eternal life do not appear as one might expect. Further, it is in human relationships, especially those of death herself, that the novel has its greatest appeal . . . but I don’t want to give away the ending. Read it and enjoy it.
Date published: 2009-10-27

Read from the Book

The following day, no one died. this fact, beingabsolutely contrary to life’s rules, provoked enormous and, inthe circumstances, perfectly justifiable anxiety in people’s minds,for we have only to consider that in the entire forty volumes ofuniversal history there is no mention, not even one exemplarycase, of such a phenomenon ever having occurred, for a wholeday to go by, with its generous allowance of twenty- four hours,diurnal and nocturnal, matutinal and vespertine, without onedeath from an illness, a fatal fall, or a successful suicide, not one,not a single one. Not even from a car accident, so frequent onfestive occasions, when blithe irresponsibility and an excess ofalcohol jockey for position on the roads to decide who will reachdeath first. New year’s eve had failed to leave behind it the usualcalamitous trail of fatalities, as if old atropos with her greatbared teeth had decided to put aside her shears for a day. Therewas, however, no shortage of blood. Bewildered, confused, distraught,struggling to control their feelings of nausea, the firemenextracted from the mangled remains wretched humanbodies that, according to the mathematical logic of the collisions,should have been well and truly dead, but which, despitethe seriousness of the injuries and lesions suffered, remainedalive and were carried off to hospital, accompanied by the shrillsound of the ambulance sirens. None of these people would diealong the way and all would disprove the most pessimistic ofmedical prognoses, There’s nothing to be done for the poorman, it’s not even worth operating, a complete waste of time,said the surgeon to the nurse as she was adjusting his mask. Andthe day before, there would probably have been no salvation forthis particular patient, but one thing was clear, today, the victimrefused to die. And what was happening here was happeningthroughout the country. Up until the very dot of midnighton the last day of the year there were people who died in fullcompliance with the rules, both those relating to the nub ofthe matter, i.e. the termination of life, and those relating to themany ways in which the aforementioned nub, with varying degreesof pomp and solemnity, chooses to mark the fatal moment.One particularly interesting case, interesting because ofthe person involved, was that of the very ancient and venerablequeen mother. At one minute to midnight on the thirty- first ofdecember, no one would have been so ingenuous as to bet aspent match on the life of the royal lady. With all hope lost, withthe doctors helpless in the face of the implacable medical evidence,the royal family, hierarchically arranged around the bed,waited with resignation for the matriarch’s last breath, perhapsa few words, a final edifying comment regarding the moral ed-ucation of the beloved princes, her grandsons, perhaps a beautiful,well- turned phrase addressed to the ever ungrateful memoryof future subjects. And then, as if time had stopped, nothinghappened. The queen mother neither improved nor deteriorated,she remained there in suspension, her frail body hoveringon the very edge of life, threatening at any moment to tipover onto the other side, yet bound to this side by a tenuousthread to which, out of some strange caprice, death, because itcould only have been death, continued to keep hold. We hadpassed over to the next day, and on that day, as we said at thebeginning of this tale, no one would die.     It was already late afternoon when the rumor began tospread that, since the beginning of the new year, or more preciselysince zero hour on this first day of january, there was norecord in the whole country of anyone dying. You might think,for example, that the rumor had its origins in the queen mother’ssurprising resistance to giving up the little life that was left toher, but the truth is that the usual medical bulletin issued to themedia by the palace’s press office not only stated that the generalstate of the royal patient had shown visible signs of improvementduring the night, it even suggested, indeed implied,choosing its words very carefully, that there was a chance thather royal highness might be restored to full health. In its initialform, the rumor might also have sprung, naturally enough,from an undertaker’s, No one seems to want to die on this firstday of the new year, or from a hospital, That fellow in bedtwenty- seven can’t seem to make up his mind one way or theother, or from a spokesman for the traffic police, It’s really odd,you know, despite all the accidents on the road, there hasn’t beena single death we can hold up as a warning to others. The rumor,whose original source was never discovered, although, of course,this hardly mattered in the light of what came afterward, soonreached the newspapers, the radio and the television, and immediatelycaused the ears of directors, assistant directors andeditors- in- chief to prick up, for these are people not onlyprimed to sniff out from afar the major events of world history,they’re also trained in the ability, when it suits, to make thoseevents seem even more major than they really are. In a matterof minutes, dozens of investigative journalists were out on thestreet asking questions of any joe schmo who happened by, whilethe ranks of telephones in the throbbing editorial offices stirredand trembled in an identical investigatory frenzy. Calls weremade to hospitals, to the red cross, to the morgue, to funeral directors,to the police, yes, all of them, with the understandableexception of the secret branch, but the replies given could besummed up in the same laconic words, There have been nodeaths. A young female television reporter had more luck whenshe interviewed a passer- by, who kept glancing alternately at herand at the camera, and who described his personal experience,which was identical to what had happened to the queen mother,The church clock was striking midnight, he said, when, just beforethe last stroke, my grandfather, who seemed on the verypoint of expiring, suddenly opened his eyes as if he’d changedhis mind about the step he was about to take, and didn’t die.The reporter was so excited by what she’d heard that, ignoringall his pleas and protests, No, senhora, I can’t, I have to go to thechemist’s, my grandfather’s waiting for his prescription, shebundled him into the news car, Come with me, your grandfatherdoesn’t need prescriptions any more, she yelled, and ordered thedriver to go straight to the television studio, where, at that precisemoment, everything was being set up for a debate betweenthree experts on paranormal phenomena, namely, two highlyregarded wizards and a celebrated clairvoyant, hastily summonedto analyze and give their views on what certain wags, thekind who have no respect for anything, were already beginningto refer to as a death strike. The bold reporter was, however, laboringunder the gravest of illusions, for she had interpreted thewords of her interviewee as meaning that the dying man had,quite literally, changed his mind about the step he was about totake, namely, to die, cash in his chips, kick the bucket, and sohad decided to turn back. Now, the words that the happy grandsonhad pronounced, As if he’d changed his mind, were radicallydifferent from a blunt, He changed his mind. An elementaryknowledge of syntax and a greater familiarity with the elasticsubtleties of tenses would have avoided this blunder, as well asthe subsequent dressing- down that the poor girl, scarlet withshame and humiliation, received from her immediate superior.Little could they, either he or she, have imagined that thesewords, repeated live by the interviewee and heard again inrecorded form on that evening’s news bulletin, would be interpretedin exactly the same mistaken way by millions of people,and that an immediate and disconcerting consequence of thiswould be the creation of a group firmly convinced that with thesimple application of will-power they, too, could conquer deathand that the undeserved disappearance of so many people in thepast could be put down solely to a deplorable weakness of willon the part of previous generations. But things would not stopthere. People, without having to make any perceptible effort,continued not to die, and so another popular mass movement,endowed with a more ambitious vision of the future, would declarethat humanity’s greatest dream since the beginning of time,the happy enjoyment of eternal life here on earth, had becomea gift within the grasp of everyone, like the sun that rises everyday and the air that we breathe. Although the two movementswere both competing, so to speak, for the same electorate, therewas one point on which they were able to agree, and that wason the nomination as honorary president, given his eminent statusas pioneer, of the courageous veteran who, at the final moment,had defied and defeated death. As far as anyone knows,no particular importance would be given to the fact that grandparemained in a state of profound coma, which everything seemsto indicate is irreversible.     Although the word crisis is clearly not the most appropriateone to describe these extraordinary events, for it would beabsurd, incongruous and an affront to the most basic logic tospeak of a crisis in an existential situation that has been privilegedby the absence of death, one can understand why somecitizens, zealous of their right to know the truth, are askingthemselves, and each other, what the hell is going on with thegovernment, who have so far given not the slightest sign of life.When asked in passing during a brief interval between twomeetings, the minister for health had, it is true, explained tojournalists that, bearing in mind that they lacked sufficient informationto form a judgment, any official statement would, inevitably,be premature, We are collating data being sent to usfrom all over the country, he added, and it’s true to say that nodeaths have been reported, but, as you can imagine, we havebeen as surprised as everyone else by this turn of events and arenot as yet ready to formulate an initial theory about the originsof the phenomenon or about its immediate and future implications.He could have left the matter there, which, consideringthe difficulties of the situation, would have been a cause for gratitude,but the well- known impulse to urge people to keep calmabout everything and nothing and to remain quietly in the foldwhatever happens, this tropism which, among politicians, especiallyif they’re in government, has become second nature, notto say automatic or mechanical, led him to conclude the conversationin the worst possible way, As minister responsible forhealth, I can assure everyone listening that there is absolutely noreason for alarm, If I understand you correctly, remarked thejournalist in a tone that tried hard not to appear too ironic, thefact that no one is dying is, in your view, not in the least alarming,Exactly, well, those may not have been my precise words,but, yes, that, essentially, is what I said, May I remind you, minister,that people were dying even yesterday and it would neverhave occurred to anyone to think that alarming, Of course not,it’s normal to die, and dying only becomes alarming whendeaths multiply, during a war or an epidemic, for example,When things depart from the norm, You could put it like that,yes, But in the current situation, when, apparently, no one isprepared to die, you call on us not to be alarmed, would you notagree with me, minister, that such an appeal is, at the very least,somewhat paradoxical, It was mere force of habit, and I recognizethat I shouldn’t have applied the word alarm to the currentsituation, So what word would you use, minister, I only ask because,as the conscientious journalist I hope I am, I always try,where possible, to use the exact term. Slightly irritated by thejournalist’s insistence, the minister replied abruptly, I would usenot one word, but six, And what would those be, minister, Letus not foster false hopes. This would doubtless have provided agood, honest headline for the newspaper the following day, butthe editor- in- chief, having consulted his managing editor,thought it inadvisable, from the business point of view as well,to throw this bucket of icy water over the prevailing mood ofenthusiasm, Let’s go for the usual headline, New Year, New Life,he said.     In the official communiqué, broadcast late that night, theprime minister confirmed that no deaths had been recordedanywhere in the country since the beginning of the new year, hecalled for moderation and a sense of responsibility in any evaluationsand interpretations of this strange fact...

Editorial Reviews

PRAISE FOR JOSE SARAMAGO Saramago is arguably the greatest writer of our time . . . He has the power to throw a dazzling flash of lightning on his subjects, an eerily and impossibly prolonged moment of clarity that illuminates details beyond the power of sunshine to reveal."- Chicago Tribune "Reading the Portuguese writer Jose Saramago, one quickly senses the presence of a master."- The Christian Science Monitor "