JOSE SARAMAGO (1922-2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. MARGARET JULL COSTA has established herself as the premier translator of Portuguese literature into English today.
Upon viewing a video recommended by his colleague, depressed history teacher Tertuliano Maximo Afonso finds to his amazement that one of the bit players looks exactly like him. Painstakingly researching the actor's filmography and viewing his other films only serve to deepen his disturbance. Obsessed with finding some closure, the teacher seeks out the actor for a face-to-face meeting. Unfortunately, the meeting shakes the actor's foundations even deeper than Afonso's, and as recompense, the actor reasons that an evening spent with the teacher's girlfriend as Afonso is a fair trade. Readers of Saramago should know that this thriller-like plot is only a frame for the author's ideas on identity, but exactly what Saramago intends his twin characters to represent is hard to divine. There's also a surprising amount of dithering dialog, as if the author wanted to capture every mundanity that these enigmatic characters might say. Too ponderous for the average reader and lacking the intrigue that the premise implies, this will appeal mainly to fans of the Nobel-winning author. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/04.] Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The double motif, which has fascinated authors as diverse as Poe, Dostoyevski and Nabokov, is revived in this surprisingly listless novel by Portuguese master Saramago. Tertuliano Maximo Afonso is a history teacher in an unnamed metropolis (presumably Lisbon). Middle-aged, divorced and in a relationship with a woman, Maria da Paz, he is bored with life. On the suggestion of a colleague, one night Maximo watches a video that changes everything. The video itself is a forgettable comedy, but the actor who plays the minor role of hotel clerk (so minor he isn't listed in the credits) is Afonso's physical double. Soon Afonso is feverishly renting videos, trying to find the actor's name, while hiding his project from his suspicious colleague, his lover and his mother. Finally tracking the man down, he suggests a meeting. The actor, a rather sleazy fellow, resents Afonso's presence, as if his identical appearance were a sort of ontological theft. Soon the two are in a competition that involves sex and power. Narrating in his usual long, rambling sentences, Saramago suspends his characters and their actions in fussy authorial asides. Afonso has several hokey "dialogues" with "common sense"; his situation, which might be the germ for an excellent short story, is stretched out far beyond the length it deserves. This semi-allegory is certainly not one of Saramago's more noteworthy offerings. Agent, Ray-Gede Mertin. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
PRAISE FOR THE DOUBLE
"In varying proportions [Saramago] is melancholy, funny, scary
and socially enraged. Such elements have rarely worked better
together than in The Double. It's tempting to think of it as
his masterpiece."--The New York Times "Saramago has the gift
of gab. Our impression is of a writer, like Faulkner, so confident
of his resources and ultimate destination that he can bring any
impossibility to life by hurling words at it."--John Updike, The
"THE DOUBLE begins by intriguing us, proceeds to entertain, charm and engage, and ultimately manages to disturb."
--Merle Rubin"Los Angeles Times" (10/04/2004)
"[Saramago's] take on the theme is clever, alarming and blackly funny"
--Richard Eder"New York Times" (10/10/2004)
"[Saramago is] a writer, like Faulkner, so confident of his resources and ultimate destination that he can bring any improbability to life"
--John Updike"The New Yorker" (09/27/2004)
"Saramago's observations come in small bursts that lift themselves up in startling truth and beauty."
--San Francisco Chronicle (11/21/2004)
"THE DOUBLE is another haunting book... from a writer who seems to produce masterpiece after masterpiece"
"What satisfying pleasure it is to be told this cautionary tale by a teller at the peak of his wisdom and sly wit."
--Trenton Times (02/13/2005)