On the first day of the New Year, no one dies.
This understandably causes great consternation amongst religious leaders - if there's no death, there can be no resurrection and therefore no reason for religion - and what will be the effect on pensions, the social services, hospitals? Funeral directors are reduced to arranging funerals for dogs, cats, hamsters and parrots. Life insurance policies become meaningless. Amid the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration: flags are hung out on balconies and people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity - eternal life.
But will death's disappearance benefit the human race, or will this sudden abeyance backfire? How long can families cope with malingering elderly relatives who scratch at death's door while the portal remains firmly shut?
Then, seven months later, death returns, heralded by purple envelopes informing the recipients that their time is up. Death herself is now writing personal notes giving one week's notice. However, when an envelope is unexpectedly returned to her, death begins to experience strange, almost human emotions.
In his new novel José Saramago again turns the world on its head - an everyday event is snatched away, and humankind is left to make of it what it will.