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Death never sleeps, but in Saramago's world there is the possibility that she might decide to try. As in his masterpiece, Blindness, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner begins by altering an immutable aspect of the human condition: for seven months in an unnamed country, beginning on New Year's Day, people cease to die. The "long digression" that opens the novel is a series of satirical sketches that describe the reaction of different sections of society to this development. Funeral homes transition to burying domestic animals, the local "maphia" profits from the illegal transport of ailing citizens across the border into countries where death still functions, and economists publish alarming articles about "permanent disability pensions." Though the novel finds the right balance between the absurd and the profound, it is saved from sinking beneath an excess of cleverness only by the emergence of a memorable protagonist 100 pages in. This is death herself (she prefers a lowercase "d"), who, in a letter written on violet-colored stationery, explains the reasons for her disappearance. One of our greatest living writers, Saramago continues to produce stimulating and multifaceted work well into his eighties. Recommended for all libraries.--Forest Turner, Suffolk Cty. House of Correction Lib., Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.