One of the joys of reading fiction is its transgressions into the unbelievable.
One of the annoyances of reading fiction is its transgressions into the unbelievable.
It takes a genius to tip the scale towards the former, and Jose Saramago is one such gifted writers. Ever since I read Blindness almost a decade ago, I have maintained Saramago to be my favourite writer. I followed up Blindness by reading several of his other works. After a hiatus, where I was primarily reading non-fiction, I got back to reading him and was reconnected with the joy of reading fiction.
The book I took up this time was Death with Interruptions. In its premise it is similar to Blindness; a supernatural event disrupts the normalcy of the society while the narrator dissects the fragility of the social structure through its characters. With an added bonus of wit and dark humour.
In this book, death decides to go on a sabbatical within the geographical boundaries of a country. The rest of the story is about the chaos that ensues, with microscopic treatment of some of the aspects of society we take for granted. For instance, what would happen to the undertakers if no one died? What about life insurance if no one died? Or what is the point of religion if there is no after-life, as no one is dying in the first place!
Of course, none of these are treated in a matter-of-factly manner but in typical Saramago style of sharp criticism masqueraded as dark humour.
One of the other joys of reading Saramago is the meanderings in his prose. While most fiction writers spend plenty of prose for world-building, Saramago takes you on a wild ride on tangents that only he could come up with. In this book, more than any of his other works, the meanderings are even more eccentric and a fun riot. For any lesser writer, these tangents would be places where they would lose their readers. I was cracking up when wandering on these tangents myself.
If you get a chance, get hold of one of Saramago’s fictional works. They are hard to get into, as his writing style can be challenging at start. Once you start relishing his words the style would seem the most natural for his dark and morally ambiguous world that is as real as the real world could get.