Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago's brilliant new novel poses the question -- what happens when the grim reaper decides there will be no more death? On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes 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?
Saramago's philosophical page-turner hinges on death taking a holiday. And, Saramago being Saramago, he turns what could be the stuff of late-night stoner debate into a lucid, playful and politically edgy novel of ideas. For reasons initially unclear, people stop dying in an unnamed country on New Year's Day. Shortly after death begins her break (death is a woman here), there's "a catastrophic collapse" in the funeral industry; disruption in hospitals of "the usual rotational process of patients coming in, getting better or dying"; and general havoc. There's much debate and discussion on the link between death, resurrection and the church, and while "the clandestine traffic of the terminally ill" into bordering countries leads to government collusion with the criminal "self-styled maphia," death falls in love with a terminally ill cellist. Saramago adds two satisfying cliffhangers how far can he go with the concept, and will death succumb to human love? The package is profound, resonant and bonus entertaining.
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TEAM NEW YORK
Great book! Find your meaning to what conquers death...
Saramago is not for everyone. One has to first get used to his writing style. Super long paragraphs, no capitalization of nouns (at least in e-book) and unique style of dialogue without " marks and within the same line. Once one is used to these idiosyncrasies, one starts to enjoy his books.
This book is a philosophical novel with a plot and story and great ending. Reader can imagine "what if" death stopped killing people. Almost a satire on institutions like government, church, mafia and business. Not a long book. Not meant to be read poolside. Best enjoyed with a glass of wine and warm fireplace.