Monday, June 22, 2009

Death with Interruptions, José Saramago

More enjoyable than his Seeing, with a lighter tone. The intrusive narrator is more knowingly, self-deprecatingly intrusive, rather than taking the tone of someone making profound philosophical comments. There was serious commentary, but, despite the subject matter--“death” withholding her services in one country for a while, then changing tactics by giving people one week’s notice, via mail--the tone was less dark. Most striking was how the book shifted from broad strokes to increasingly human and humane interests, till it narrowed down to the relationship between death and a cellist who--for reasons that remained unclear--simply declined to die. Slow early on, with its broad approach, but increasingly of interest once it allows characters to emerge. Quite a bit about the book is “meta,” as death’s stylistic choices--lowercasing her name, idiosyncratic use of punctuation, loose sentence structure--are actually Saramago’s choices, and the movement of the book’s plot is meant, I suppose, to mirror Saramago’s shift in interest from the largely philosophical questions posed by his initial conceit to the more finite issues posed once he’s introduced a more novelistic plot. A fair bit of that early idea seems half-cocked, so it’s as if Saramago only stumbles upon a better story once he’s halfway along.

No comments: