Tuesday, 12 May 2009


As an inter-Capuchin break, I've been reading and have just finished the clever and excellent Death at Intervals. This novel, translated from Jose Saramago's Portugese, is set in an unspecified country whose inhabitants' lives are transformed when it is discovered that Death has ceased to function within its boundaries. An initial euphoria is complicated and nullified as the profound social, poltical and moral drawbacks to this situation emerge and multiply.

A book such as this, which can so easily fall into ill-thought out whimsy or surreality for its own sake, depends on strong and consistent authorial tone and direction, qualities which are certainly in evidence here. One of the ways in which the book is sustained is through a marvellously deadpan but never flat writing style, which perfectly suits the increasing agonies of the poiticans and beuraucrats as they struggle to come to terms with the implications of their curse in disguise. The novel then assumes a different character as we are led into the life of Death and the background to her decision to down tools. Again, Saramago avoids the potential cliche and triteness in his anthropomorphism to create a credible - in the book's own terms - and engaging character.

Part social and political satire, part meditation on love, death and mortality, this was entirely a great read, selected by browsing more or less at random through the shelves of my local library.

Go buy or borrow a copy.


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