Throughout his fiction, José Saramago cultivates an entertaining and witty blend of logic and absurdity, and his work is characterised by an obsessive search for the right words and names even as he is amused by their arbitrariness. Death at Intervals, his latest novel to be published in English, begins with the news that death is on sabbatical. A simple opening statement (“The following day, no one died”) gives rise to a dazzling satirical display, as Saramago considers the consequences of death’s disappearance for undertakers, carpenters, journalists, retirement homes, insurance companies, various branches of philosophy and the church,…
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