Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago

Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago

Portuguese Literature

Original title – As Intermitências da Morte 

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – personal copy

I have had a real bout of readers block and reviewing block as well in recent weeks. I thought I had reviewed a Saramago early on in the blog but I hadn’t I just read a couple just before I started the blog. I decided to choose this as it had a lot of themes that Saramago used. The strange change of events here people stop dying. death it’s self a theme in other books I have read by him also it has the same style of the narrative he used in other books a stream of consciousness style and it was a later book in his writing career I always like seeing how writers wrote after the fame and Nobel win. It is over ten years since he died and Well maybe we need to read more of this great writer’s books.

THE FOLLOWING DAY ,NO ONE DIES, THIS FACT< BEING ABSOLUTELY contray to life’s rules, provoked enormous and, in the circumstances, perfectly justifiable anxiety in people’s ,ind, for we have ony to consider that in the enitire forty volumes of universal history there is no mention, not even one exemplarycase, such a phenomen ever having occurred, for a whole day  to go by, woth its genrous ever having occured for a whole day to go by, with its generous allowance of twenty-four hours, diurnal and nocturnal, matutinal and vesoertine, without one death from an illness , a fatal fall or a successful suicide, not one, not a single one

The opening lines of the book on the 1 January  everything changes.

The book starts in a country landlocked and the new year has just turned and then all of a sudden everyone in the country stops dying. This at once see as a wonderful joy among the public as a whole when it is clear there is no more deaths. But soon turns bad when an elderly royal on death’s door can’t die and she isn’t the only one. As the cycle that carries on living the whole cycle of life and death is broken by death stopping it , putting a branch in the wheel of life. So those that are involved in the whole cycle of life are worried the prime minister of this small country with its one tv channel may be his nod to the closed years of Portugal’s own past. Then Death is a  back ut in the figure of a person. After her taking a break she is a woman as in Portugal the noun of Death is female she sets up a relationship with a cellist that has to avoid her calls for her time to be over sets up an interesting match up. over what time it is best to die this is a book that asks about are our own mortality, by a writer looking back on his life.

in this country in which noonje dies not everything was a sordid as we have just described, nor,in this soceity toen between the hope of living for ever and the fear of never dying, did the voracious maphia succeed in getting its talons into every section by corrupting souls, subjagating bodies and besmirching the little that remained of the fince principles of oldm when an envelope containing something that smelled of a bribe would have been immediately returned to the sender, bearing a firm and clear response

later the reality of no deaths. Finally sinks in to everyone

The book has a lot of threads that connect to his other books the church and immortality is a theme that is very Saramago he frequently attacks the church which is a powerful shadow over Portugal grew up in there is also nods to the Salazar regime in the one tv state here an insular country. Death as a woman is refreshing for an English reader as we have death as a male from the image in Seventh seal or the spoof of that in Bill and ted, here we have a younger death a woman in a battle with a middle-aged man a cellist the lead cellist a nod to certain pieces played that deal with death. This ask the question of what would happen if we lived forever. We are all dying that is a fact of life and this is what is evident after time here as good as it seems on the outset after the first day of no deaths. when the flip side of what happens when you can’t die !! Like many of the other books by Saramago, I have read this leaves you as a reader thinking he uses a mix of magic realism fables, philosophy, and his own life to mix a truly unique vision. Have you a favorite book by him? I will be reviewing another great Portuguese writer soon.

Winstons score – A a great late-career work from a Nobel winner



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jul 28, 2021 @ 18:52:29

    Isn’t it wonderful, Stu? This was my first Saramago and I loved it – totally hooked!!


  2. roughghosts
    Jul 28, 2021 @ 19:28:13

    Like Karen this was my first Saramago and so far only. It was many years ago but I still think of this story often. I really must read more.


  3. Heather
    Jul 29, 2021 @ 10:19:59

    Interesting…I read this years ago, and the translation of the one I read was titled DEATH, WITH INTERRUPTIONS.


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July 2021


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