Philip Womack admires another fable from Nobel Laureate José Saramago. Buy Death at Intervals by José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa from Amazon’s Fiction Books Store. Everyday low prices on a huge range of new releases and. In José Saramago’s latest novel, death falls in love and takes a holiday.

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Four Lions A film that laughs at suicide bombers intervqls doesn’t offend anyone? All this is narrated in Saramago’s customary exquisite deadpan, with his surfeit of happy invention and comically precise offhand detail.

Here he is on familiar and sparkling ground once more, in a work that meditates on what is perhaps the greatest challenge that mankind faces.

Death at Intervals by José Saramago | New Humanist

A means of finally killing people, and relieving families of the burden of their catatonic kin, is devised and implemented by an underground group known only as the maphia the ‘ph’ is chosen to avoid any confusion with the more sinister Mafia.

Unlike Pratchett’s Death, the local death of this novel can adopt human form, especially as the strike and subsequent change of practice causes her millennia-old system to stumble. We might think, then, of Death at Intervals as a companion volume to All the Names, or in a way its photographic negative. The New York Times. The violet-envelope-encased letters create a frenzy in the country, as people are not just returned to dying, but also must face the specter of receiving one of these letters and having their fate sealed with it.

Should the government condone this, when it is well known that the maphia is helping to cart the nearly-dead across?


Described thus, the technique might sound messy. Inrervals many of the Portuguese Nobel laureate’s novels, this has a fable-like quality, seen in the simplicity of the central trope and the action’s setting – a small country with a terminally ill Queen Mother, pragmatic Prime Minister, and one state-run TV channel. If you buy this book, I beg you not to read the back cover.

Saramago’s death is an efficient senior librarian or a successful public-sector manager rather than the sinister spectre portrayed by Bengt Ekerot in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. This primes us for an allusion to a character in Saramago’s earlier novel, the Borgesian love story All the Names. Upon visiting him, she plans to personally give him the letter; instead, she falls in love with him, and, by doing so, she becomes even more human-like.

The population’s reaction is predictably hysterical and the handwriting analyst contracted to examine the letters concludes, brilliantly, that death has the handwriting of a serial killer.

Those who have not read him before will be startled from the very first page of his new novel, when speech first appears. Saramago delights in the complexities of administrative wrangles: Saramago here plays an unexpected and very funny joke.

Initially, the people of this country celebrate their apparent victory over mankind’s longtime foe. Death at Intervals begins with a striking conceit: Pages to import images to Wikidata Articles containing Portuguese-language text. In Death at Intervals Saramago explores, among other things, the ramifications for this process of a minute orthographic decision. This joy is short-lived – it soon becomes apparent that the end of death presents unique demographic and financial challenges.

The absence of death only causes bureaucratic chaos.

Tricks and treats

Nursing homes unhappily foresee a future when the majority of society will have reached arrested death, supported by a dwindling number of young. When it is discovered that people in other countries are still dying, families start intervvals their nearly-dead across the borders, whereupon they die immediately: Matthew Adams meets him Read more.


A complete edition of John James Audubon’s world famous The Birds of America, bound in deagh and beautifully presented in a special slipcase. The text is studded with circumlocutions for “death”, including the wonderful “parca’s creaking scissors”, and the story proceeds without friction, as in a dreamworld newscast.

The industry develops so quickly that the government itself becomes beholden to the maphioso, even bringing it to the brink of war with its neighbors. This page was last edited on 21 Novemberat Inntervals who ought to die because of extreme sickness or injury remain on this side, in a state known as “suspended life or, as they preferred to call it, arrested death”.

Retrieved 30 January Being female, she is capricious, bossy and susceptible to flattery. Like Terry Pratchett’s memorably stoical skeleton in Mort, Saramago’s death is often very funny. For critic James Wood the novel offers an antidote to unforgiving certainties, sacred and profane. The Catholic Church feels threatened by this new turn of events, as the end of death would call into question one of the intrevals foundations of their dogma:

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