Sunday, 31 October 2010

Death at Intervals

by José Saramago

It was not until my last visit to lanzarote that I learned about the death — and life — of this island’s famous resident, the nobel prize winner, thanks to the obituary, published in local magazine, which mentioned several of his novels, including death at intervals, which was why I picked the book from the library, and was not disappointed.

Saramago’s novella, satire, fable, parable, fairy tale, or whatever you may wish to call this book, deals with a curious case of death taking a break, a sabbatical, so to speak, from her duties, in an unnamed landlocked country, with rather catastrophic consequences for national economy and psyche, not to mention the concomitant rise of maphia, with a ph (to distinguish it from the original mafia), followed, seven months later, by death’s spectacular comeback, accompanied by epistolary manifestations, further damage to national psyche, and the discovery that death, with a small d, is actually a person, more specifically, a female, of uncertain age but who, at certain moments, can look like a very pretty woman of thirty-six — I knew it! — who, apparently, never failed in her undertakings before, until now, that is, when the postal service refuses to deliver her letter to, wait, wait, a single man, a musician, who once said that he couldn’t see himself in any piece of music other than chopin’s étude opus twenty-five, number nine, in g flat major, also known as “Le papillon”, but that’s about all I was going to tell you, thank you for reading, good night.

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