What happens when Tertuliano M-ximo Afonso, a 38-year-old professor of history, discovers that there is a man living in the same city who is identical to him on every physical detail, but not related by blood at all. And what happens when each of these men attempt to investigate each other's lives? How do we know who we are? What do we mean by ...
What happens when Tertuliano M-ximo Afonso, a 38-year-old professor of history, discovers that there is a man living in the same city who is identical to him on every physical detail, but not related by blood at all. And what happens when each of these men attempt to investigate each other's lives? How do we know who we are? What do we mean by identity? What defines us as individual, unique people? Could we ever come to terms with the existence of another person with our voice, our features, our everything, down to the smallest distinguishing mark? Could we change places with our double without those closest to us noticing? Dark yet comic, Jos- Saramago's new novel can be read as an existential thriller, but it is above all a work of literature that immerses us in the essential questions of life. It is certain to become a 21st-century classic.
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Publishers Weekly, 2004-08-16 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.
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