Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Holy Books of Guttersnipe Das: Jose Saramago

Jose Saramago, Death With Interruptions
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009

It's just so much fun. When the Cardinal calls, outraged, to say that the cessation of death imperils the Church, when the narrator explores the fate of insurance companies or funeral homes in a country without death or launches upon an analysis of the handwriting found on death violet-colored stationery. It's just so much fun.

Saramago skewers society and its institutions -- yet portrays individuals with tenderness and dignity. I think he is one of the best for creating characters who are truly and convincingly good.

Half of the book is spent exploring the idea of a country without death, half to showing what happens when death herself trips up and falls in love. It is all a romp.

Please ignore people who say Saramago is "difficult". They are just trying to make themselves feel elevated -- and we should call their bluff. If you're reading Saramago for the first time, you'll need to accustom yourself to a few differences in the use of punctuation and the paragraph -- innovations which function so smoothly it is likely they will be adopted by other writers.

Two hundred pages of delight and then -- a big bang-up old-fashioned ending that made me catch my breath. Such fun! Especially if mortality's been sending you small shocks lately, this is one to put on top of your reading list.

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