Red Wheelbarrow Book Reviews

Renee Abigail Penelope Harold Meg

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from Renée's Reviews



The Double

by José Saramago
Vintage UK paperback

This is the last Saramago to be translated in English and I am a fan so that my report is going to be positive. Like all his fiction, the suspense is almost unbearable. The theme is identity and the resolution leaves you with as many questions as you can possibly bear. The hero of the novel is a slightly depressed history teacher who suffers from irresolution and much personal confusion. He has not been able to ask his mistress to come and live with him, too many doubts, too many hesitations, not enough drive. He is unsure of most things, mostly he is unsure of himself, driven and tortured by self-doubt. One night a kind colleague offers him a movie to take his mind off his troubles and to cheer him up. This is when the real misery begins for him: on the screen, he sees a minor star of the film who turns out to be his double. He becomes entirely obsessed with questions of his own identity. Is it possible to have another self ? Surely it is impossible to have two totally identical men walk around in the same city, at the same time with the same appearance, undistinguishable one from another. In all Saramago¹s books the real and the unreal mix. What could have happened and what could not have happened walk a fine line of improbability. The plot is complex and riveting. There is a suffocating tension which kept me anxious and afraid while at the same time there is plenty of humor to allow for fun and laughter. The nature of love is the theme that carries the plot forward and also condemns the hero. Tertuliano, for that is his name, is not capable of full and generous love and so condemns himself. The new Ishiguro thinks long similar lines, but treats his theme quite differently. It is an interesting experiment to read and reflect about modern man with a foretaste of the future after considering these two novelists.

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