"In the craft of the sentence, José Saramago is one of the great originals... no one writes quite like Saramago, so solicitous and yet so magnificently free. He works as though cradling a thing of magic" ( Guardian)
"Saramago has a light, graceful, ironic touch... the paraphernalia of magical realism" (John Banville)
"The author's eccentric voice is as engaging as ever... a fitting cap to a body of work as playful as it is wise" ( Financial Times)
"With characteristic dry wit he proceeds to debunk the rosy romance of eternal life" ( The Times)
"A compelling work by a fine writer ... the unique Saramagoan style ... gives the impression of a thought experiment to which the writer is merely a catalyst. That impression is a carefully crafted one: true art conceals its art, wrote Ovid" ( New Statesman)
In an unnamed country on the first day of the new year, people stop dying. Amid the general public, there is great celebration: flags are hung out on balconies and people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity - eternal life. Death is on strike.
Soon, though, the residents begin to suffer. For several months undertakers face bankruptcy, the church is forced to reinvent its doctrine, and local 'maphia' smuggle those on the brink of death over the border where they can expire naturally.
Death does return eventually, but with a new, courteous approach - delivering violet warning letters to her victims. But what can death do when a letter is unexpectedly returned?
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