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Death at Intervals [Paperback]

Jose Saramago , Margaret Jull Costa
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

5 Feb 2009

In an unnamed country on the first day of the new year, people stop dying. Amid the general public, there is great celebration: flags are hung out on balconies and people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity - eternal life. Death is on strike.

Soon, though, the residents begin to suffer. For several months undertakers face bankruptcy, the church is forced to reinvent its doctrine, and local 'maphia' smuggle those on the brink of death over the border where they can expire naturally.

Death does return eventually, but with a new, courteous approach - delivering violet warning letters to her victims. But what can death do when a letter is unexpectedly returned?


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099502488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099502487
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

José Saramago was born in Portugal in 1922 and has been a full-time writer since 1979. His oeuvre embraces plays, poetry, short stories, non-fiction and novels, which have been translated into more than forty languages and have established him as the most influential Portuguese writer of his generation. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.

Product Description

Review

"In the craft of the sentence, José Saramago is one of the great originals... no one writes quite like Saramago, so solicitous and yet so magnificently free. He works as though cradling a thing of magic" (Guardian)

"Saramago has a light, graceful, ironic touch... the paraphernalia of magical realism" (John Banville)

"The author's eccentric voice is as engaging as ever... a fitting cap to a body of work as playful as it is wise" (Financial Times)

"With characteristic dry wit he proceeds to debunk the rosy romance of eternal life" (The Times)

"A compelling work by a fine writer ... the unique Saramagoan style ... gives the impression of a thought experiment to which the writer is merely a catalyst. That impression is a carefully crafted one: true art conceals its art, wrote Ovid" (New Statesman)

Review

`I wish more novelists writing exhibited this much intellectual ambition, and this much humanity and elegance in realising it'.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better and better 19 Mar 2008
Format:Paperback
This appears to be the third of a series of books in which Saramago's fictional city comes to terms with the effects of some implausible but brilliant affliction. In the first - blindness - we see the city struck down with an inability to see; The second - seeing - sees the city's inhabitants unanimously cast blank votes in th general election, and here, the city is now in the grip of death's abscence, literally unable to die.

Saramago's gift is the way in which he uses these events to explore the consequences in a society set up to deal only with the inevitable. In this latest, the abscence of death holds huge problems for the church's theologising, the government's ability to govern (for what of endless pension payments?!), the hospitals' intake and the funeral homes' sudden insolvency. The book is riddled with small snapshots of the effects on ordinary people, nicely juxaposed with the government's reaction on a larger scale.

Saramago commands his prose beautifully, and his ability to constantly both engage and involve the reader (we are reminded throughout that this is all taking place on the page) is credit to his ability; if you haven't read any Saramago yet, begin with The Double (still his best) and then if not this series, then this particular book. Wonderful.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea so what went wrong? 15 Dec 2008
By pete VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book suffers due to its length. The premise is straight forward; what happens if death takes a break and people don't die. Then if death returns portrayed as an earnest, committed female skeleton, what happens when having been given more free will the people refuse to accept their fate. These are presented as profound philosophical questions laced with stick dry humor. Over the length of the book though their impact is weakened by an overly detailed explanation of plot without -dare I say this- any of the characters being really fleshed out. In summary I thought it was a great idea but too similar in style to his other books so becomes annoying rather than enlightening. A disappointing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 16 May 2013
By Jane
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the tird book by this author that I have read. This is an easier read than 'Blindness' and 'Seeing' - a slightly different style. lAll were bought as used books. All were bought as used books - in very good condition true to description.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An unusual and surreal read 30 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback
Death at Intervals is an unusual and surreal read. To me it got off to a rather slow start, however it was worthwhile sticking at it.
It's set in a fictional city where people suddenly stop dying, but continue to grow old and thus the country slowly goes bankrupt - an allegory of the modern world, perhaps? Naturally the Mafia are soon making money from this.
Without warning the storyline suddenly shifts. Death begins harvesting again but, on a whimsy, pens her intended victims a personal note informing them in advance of her intention to call. Her intentions, she reminds them, are unchallengeable. Without warning, a letter comes back undelivered. Impossible. She posts it again. Again, it comes back.
For the second time, the story shifts into something quite different; but I can't say any more without giving the tale away. The reviews seem to be split. Linear and credible it isn't, but then it isn't meant to be.

Jane Hetherington's Adventures in Detection Omnibus (Books 1-3): Omnibus Edition (Books 1-3)
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3.0 out of 5 stars a good book by saramago. 27 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Death at Intervals is another story with an interesting premise from Portuguese writer and nobel prize winner, jose saramago. the premise: people stop dying. is Death on vacation? the first few chapters are the best but towards the end i got the distinct feeling saramago didn't really know how to wrap up his story. it is still worth a read, but it is in no way on the same league as saramago's earlier works, namely: baltazar and blimunda, blindness, the gospel according to jesus christ, to name just a few.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was sucked into this by the interesting premise of what would happen if, in just one country, everyone stops dying. The book was written in 2005 so this is years before the TV series Torchwood explored a similar idea. The first half of the book followed up the implications of both that premise and then a personified "death" changing their mind and switching to a whole new system of preannounced deaths. However both the character of "death" and the book itself then lose their way falling through whimsy, and sentimental tosh, to an increasingly obvious and dull conclusion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The day when people stopped dying 3 Jun 2011
Format:Paperback
I love the premise of this book. One day, in a particular country, people stop dying. They still get old, get sick, get mangled in car accidents, etc., but they can't die.

At first this news is greeted with elation. It's the end of Death's age-old tyranny, the greatest fear suddenly removed. But then the complications begin. People still suffer, old people lie in bed on the verge of death but unable to cross over. Retirement homes go into crisis, as people continue to arrive but nobody leaves. Funeral homes and life insurance companies are also distraught, although the insurance people manage to land on their feet as always. Bishops and philosophers meet to discuss the implications of death's disappearance. The fear of death has long been the basis of morality and religion, after all.

Meanwhile, some people take matters into their own hands. A family decides to put its terminally ill father out of his misery by taking him across the border into the neighbouring country where death is still operating as usual. This becomes a trend and then starts a whole industry, which is soon taken over by the mafia. Then, after a while, death reappears...

It's an incredibly imaginative story, and well told. The style is very wordy, with some sentences stretching over pages, and multiple sub-clauses. The dialogue is also not separated by paragraphs or inverted commas, so it can be quite hard to follow sometimes. In general the wordiness works, simply because it is so well-written, but at times I wished he would just get on with it. I do have to put in a mention for the translator, Margaret Jull Costa, as well. This must have been a tough book to translate, and the fact that those long sentences are at all intelligible is a tribute to her ability.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars (d)eathly boring
My first Jose Saramago, and probably my last.

I picked up this book because it had the most brilliant storyline, I thought it was going to be an excellent read for sure. Read more
Published on 30 Jun 2011 by S. Shamma
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious and trite
For all that this book is marketed as a "magical realist take on a fresh subject by a Nobel laureate", it just isn't very good at all. Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2010 by J.
3.0 out of 5 stars An executive summary of a novel, but not a novel.
So, I found myself on a Portuguese island recently. I strolled into a bookshop, and had a look at the English language section. Read more
Published on 18 July 2010 by Federhirn
1.0 out of 5 stars Nice idea but how dull do you have to be.
This is a great book written badly.

The idea is superb but it's ponderous and wordy presentation meant I gave up. And I like slow books. Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2010 by M. Sunderland
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable although not one of Saramago's best
The basic premise of this book that death takes a year's holiday in a certain land-locked country - this leads to initial rejoicing but then the problems emerge. Read more
Published on 26 Mar 2010 by Aquinas
3.0 out of 5 stars good, but not great
I think the idea for this novel was very good- what happens if death decided not to kill anymore? I don't think This brilliant idea was realised to its full potential, I found the... Read more
Published on 13 Feb 2010 by Clarinda
5.0 out of 5 stars Death at Intervals
At first rather a confusing style - long sentences, interminable sub clauses - but then a witty and sometimes profound book with a delightful ending. Read more
Published on 25 Aug 2009 by James H. Witham
2.0 out of 5 stars Saramago by numbers
Death by Intervals is fairly entertaining, but not his best work. The satire on how people, politicians and clergy react to the new death-free world is rather uninsightful and... Read more
Published on 16 May 2009 by Peter Gordon
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