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Author Topic: Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago  (Read 6620 times)
Ed
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« on: September 22, 2009, 04:38:43 PM »

Thought I'd start a thread, ready for some discussion on the book. I think this one's probably going to take a while longer to read than Ghost Pirates, but I'm looking forward to getting stuck in smiley
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2009, 06:09:14 PM »

Same here.  Cheesy
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« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2009, 06:13:33 PM »

Mine's arrived and it's more pages than the last one. Will start tonight.
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« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2009, 06:36:32 PM »

I went forthe free delivery option, so I haven't got mine yet. Hopefully I'll have it by Monday, though.
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« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2009, 01:29:07 PM »

I used the one-click option on Amazon and the book price did go up a couple of quid but I thought - sod it, lets go with that then.
And I need a head start, I'm an extremely slow reader.
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« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2009, 06:00:51 PM »


And I need a head start, I'm an extremely slow reader.

Yeah, I noticed that on the last one - I thought I was a slow reader, but I'm Speedy Gonzales on meth compared to you afro
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« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2009, 07:05:27 PM »

I have opted for the free book, pick-it-up yourself option by placing a hold on it at my local library. I'm afraid this isn't one I'll want to add to my permanent collection, but I'm willing to spend a few hours reading it. Well, I say that now. I may get frustrated with the "dense prose" and "creative punctuation" at some point and go the Geoff Nelder route. We'll see.  bleh
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« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2009, 07:16:58 PM »

Yeah, I noticed that on the last one - I thought I was a slow reader, but I'm Speedy Gonzales on meth compared to you afro

You got it right there, Ed.  Wink
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« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2009, 07:29:41 PM »

Be prepared for long sentences with lots of commas and the power of three abounding. So far I don't mind the prose, the words as they're strung together, the way the sentences are formulated. And fortunately the gaps between, that distance which separates, and the space that renders, the power of three less than a device don't occur too often; so far!  Wink
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2009, 11:05:00 AM »

Mine turned up this morning afro
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« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2009, 07:50:16 PM »

All right. First discussion point for everyone who's read the first chapter (which ends on page 13). Even if you haven't finished the chapter, if you've read to the paragraph break on page 8, you can participate.

Discussion Point:

What does Saramago gain, if anything, by eschewing quotation marks and separating the dialogue of two speakers with only a comma (no line break) and simply starting the new speaker's words with a capital letter? What does he lose?

On pages 6-8 is a conversation between the health minister and a journalist, and on pages 9-13 is a conversation between the prime minister and the cardinal. The latter is much longer, and I found it much harder to keep track of who was speaking.

I've tried to work out what the benefit to this style is, and the only thing that comes to mind is "immediacy."  Although it *does* add a surrealistic tone to the material on top of what the subject matter already provides--makes it less journalistic and more fantastic, perhaps--I find that I have to keep re-reading bits to make sure I understand what's going on, so it destroys the flow.

I keep asking myself, "Would it have *killed* him (no pun intended) to have used traditional dialogue structure?"

Do you think it would have taken anything away from the story?  scratch
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« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2009, 04:11:04 AM »

No, I don't. I'm tempted to call it arrogance on the author's part, but I guess he would say it was done in the pursuit of some higher goal. Art, darling. It's obviously not an oversight, otherwise it would not be how it is - an editor would have caught it, or it would have been lost in translation. Questions would have been asked and answered at some stage.

My guess would be the reason either revolves around wanting to give the reader a feeling of uneasiness - wrong footing them as they read - or it's the more cynical reason of a marketing ploy. To get people talking about it.
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2009, 02:24:12 PM »

It is very strange, this way of representing dialogue. But so far it hasn't got my back up.
Two questions did spring to mind 1) was the translator under such a tight deadline that she didn't have the time to go back and structure the dialogue or 2) is this how Portuguese literature is put to paper and the translator has echoed this exactly? I have no idea. And I've not yet seen any comments elsewhere on the Internet that talk about this style.  scratch
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« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2009, 05:09:11 PM »

I'm on page 40-50, can't remember exactly without checking - god I'm lazy, hold on a minute, I'll go and have a look.

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I'm on page 45 and have to say that I'm surprised that the narrator (both of them it seems, translator and author) have decided to pop in to the story and say sorry for not making something about the characters, in earlier passages, clear! Not an omni-present narrator but a present narrator - very different indeed.
I must say I'm not to keen on this as the explanation that "poor folk" can't really afford a mule and cart and that the "poor folk" aren't in fact that poor - and this is why they have a mule and cart, is not really necessary. I didn't pick up on this and to pop into the story like that (author intrusion) doesn’t add anything for me.

Apart from that, so far so good. But it's a long debate about the pros and cons of death that seems, only now, to be fading away giving space for the rest of the story to continue.
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« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2009, 08:35:36 PM »

Quote
is this how Portuguese literature is put to paper and the translator has echoed this exactly

I was wondering the same thing.

I expected this one to be a chore, and though I've only read ten pages so far, I'm pleased to see it's flowing along quite smoothly.
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« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2009, 08:01:44 PM »

I'm pleased to see it's flowing along quite smoothly.

I'm finding this too. It's incredibly strange that a piece of prose, which seems to stick two fingers up at standards for story structure and how it should be represented on a page, is delivering a decent and smooth read. In my mind there is no sense why this should be so, but it is. And so far it works for me.

I am now confused, but that has nothing to do with the story, just why such an alien (to me) format is working so well. Hey ho.

However, there is a downside to this format, that I'm finding, and that is when book marking a page, finding where one left off takes slightly longer than usual.

But, comparatively, I had the same problem with Peter Straub's Ghost story which is structured exactly as one would expect.
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« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2009, 09:54:29 AM »

I'm on page 45 and have to say that I'm surprised that the narrator (both of them it seems, translator and author) have decided to pop in to the story and say sorry for not making something about the characters, in earlier passages, clear! Not an omni-present narrator but a present narrator - very different indeed.
I must say I'm not to keen on this as the explanation that "poor folk" can't really afford a mule and cart and that the "poor folk" aren't in fact that poor - and this is why they have a mule and cart, is not really necessary. I didn't pick up on this and to pop into the story like that (author intrusion) doesn’t add anything for me.

I don't think you can bring the translator into this at all. It's not like she can change the author's words and explain something he didn't! Her job was to take the Portuguese and turn it into English, trying to retain as much as possible of the original "flavor" despite differences in idioms and slang between the languages. I'm not that familiar with Portuguese, but given the level of vocabulary used (matutinal, anyone?), and the lack of awkwardness of the sentence structure, I'd say she did a terrific job.

No, this problem is all on the author. It's big-time author intrusion, and more of the arrogance Ed was talking about, in my opinion. Saramago happily writes along, fails to supply some details that would help the reader to understand the economic situation his characters are in, then says, "Oh, by the way, I forgot to point this out earlier, but..." when all he had to do was revise his manuscript if he *really* wanted us to understand their situation earlier. This unnamed fictitious country is based loosely on Portugal, I believe (although it is landlocked, where Portugal is not), and if I'm not mistaken, truly poor people in Portugal would NOT have a mule and a cart. (Truly poor people probably wouldn't have a house of their own, either.) So he's telling us about this family and then it's almost as if he's afraid someone will call him out about whether "poor" people have mules and carts or not so he spends time clarifying. Bizarre.

The example you point out is not the last one, either. There are other authorial intrusions coming up where he does similar things. (I got to page 170 the first weekend, read another 25 pages the next weekend, and have not picked it up since.) It's irritating and unnecessary, and neither you nor I could get away with it. Apparently once you win the Nobel Prize in literature you can do whatever the hell you want.
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« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2009, 05:44:37 PM »

I don't think you can bring the translator into this at all.

The only reason I posited this thought was because, when this circumstance happens, the narrator intrusion, whoever the writing can be attribute to, talks of "we". But this is a minor point - I can't claim to know the writer's mind and it's just my understanding of what the conjunctive meant. It could something else entirely.

Apart from that I think all your points are apt, barring the observation that the author has been arrogant. I don't know the guy, I can't possibly know his psychology and to make a judgement of a writer's self view, based on a piece of fiction is flawed. Possibly he is arrogant. For me, I would hold off making that judgement until I'd read a transcript of any interviews he made have had.

This begs the question; can you judge the psyche of a writer solely based on their writings?

If the understanding of my psyche was based on a subset of my written work then the view could easily be formed that I’m some kind of suicidal nutter – which I’m not; I truly enjoy life. And part of that enjoyment is writing bleak and dark stuff, it makes me laugh.

So, can we really say this author is arrogant because of this particular style of writing in this particular story? I think not. IMHO.
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« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2009, 06:44:32 PM »

Okay. It's beaten me - so much author intrusion I am now no longer bothered to discover the outcome. I will pick it up again and battle on through, but when the term "spirit" was initially used to mean "an attitude" and after a page the context of its meaning turned towards an "incorporeal being" that was related to water somehow, and as far as I could tell had nothing to do with the story's premise, I quickly picked up my Dean Koontz interrupted and uninterrupted it.

That aside, the style was intriguing and an eye opener. I think this book could be slotted into the literary fiction camp quite easily. (see: http://www.cafedoom.com/forum/index.php?topic=2938.msg30839#msg30839)
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« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2009, 08:24:42 PM »

Must admit I'm struggling with it, and haven't picked it up for a while. Just haven't been in the right frame of mind for it lately. undecided
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« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2009, 03:13:52 PM »

mustn't have my stuff here, ed keeps it.
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