Saturday, June 19, 2010


Awe-inspiring Portuguese nobel laureate Jose Saramago died yesterday. His death brought to mind a work of his I read a couple of years ago, "Death With Interruptions", based on the premise of a society where people stopped dying, causing huge problems to social security, economy, the state, even religion... Reading the work was a difficult pleasure, but it made me reconsider death and its necessity. I am trying to hold onto this concept now that this great man has died, leaving a gap in the world of thought and literature. May he rest in peace like so many other great intellectuals before him.

"THE FOLLOWING DAY, NO ONE DIED. THIS FACT, BEING ABSOLUTELY contrary to life’s rules, provoked enormous and, in the circumstances, perfectly justifiable anxiety in people’s minds, for we have only to consider that in the entire forty volumes of universal history there is no mention, not even one exemplary case, of such a phenomenon ever having occurred, for a whole day to go by, with its generous allowance of twenty-four hours, diurnal and nocturnal, matutinal and vespertine, without one death from an illness, a fatal fall, or a successful suicide, not one, not a single one. Not even from a car accident, so frequent on festive occasions, when blithe irresponsibility and an excess of alcohol jockey for position on the roads to decide who will reach death first. New year’s eve had failed to leave behind it the usual calamitous trail of fatalities, as if old Atropos with her great bared teeth had decided to put aside her shears for a day. There was, however, no shortage of blood. Bewildered, confused, distraught, struggling to control their feelings of nausea, the firemen extracted from the mangled remains wretched human bodies that, according to the mathematical logic of the collisions, should have been well and truly dead, but which, despite the seriousness of the injuries and lesions suffered, remained alive and were carried off to hospital, accompanied by the shrill sound of the ambulance sirens. None of these people would die along the way and all would disprove the most pessimistic of medical prognoses, There’s nothing to be done for the poor man, it’s not even worth operating, a complete waste of time, said the surgeon to the nurse as she was adjusting his mask. And the day before, there would probably have been no salvation for this particular patient, but one thing was clear, today, the victim refused to die. And what was happening here was happening throughout the country. Up until the very dot of midnight on the last day of the year there were people who died in full compliance with the rules, both those relating to the nub of the matter, i.e. the termination of life, and those relating to the many ways in which the aforementioned nub, with varying degrees of pomp and solemnity, chooses to mark the fatal moment. One particularly interesting case, interesting because of the person involved, was that of the very ancient and venerable queen mother. At one minute to midnight on the thirty-first of December, no one would have been so ingenuous as to bet a spent match on the life of the royal lady. With all hope lost, with the doctors helpless in the face of the implacable medical evidence, the royal family, hierarchically arranged around the bed, waited with resignation for the matriarch’s last breath, perhaps a few words, a final edifying comment regarding the moral education of the beloved princes, her grandsons, perhaps a beautiful, well-turned phrase addressed to the ever ungrateful memory of future subjects. And then, as if time had stopped, nothing happened. The queen mother neither improved nor deteriorated, she remained there in suspension, her frail body hovering on the very edge of life, threatening at any moment to tip over onto the other side, yet bound to this side by a tenuous thread to which, out of some strange caprice, death, because it could only have been death, continued to keep hold. We had passed over to the next day, and on that day, as we said at the beginning of this tale, no one would die."

RIP Jose. You'll be missed!


Robin said...

As always you post something thought-provoking. It is always a sad day when someone with so much to offer this world departs it. Of course, the prose you posted on his death would be his writing about the one day no one died. Naturually. I love how contrary you are.

Wisewebwoman said...

Oh I'll be back, what a delicious blog you have here, my dear!

Purple Cow said...

Oh, Robin, the day I posted about the day when nobody died is also the day my eldest daughter was born...Just to be extra trite! ;-)

Sharon said...

Much to digest. A wonderful tribute. Your posts never disappoint my hungry mind.

A very happy birthday to your daughter.