The Double by Jose Saramago;

I shared about this author sometime back, perhaps another book to add to the list?

From Publisher’s Weekly:

“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 Máximo 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 Máximo 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.

There was also another adorable review by a person named Cipriano:

“Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine – they are the life, the soul of reading.” – Laurence Sterne.
Believing the above statement to be true would really help a reader enjoy Saramago and I happen to be one of the believers. I cannot think of an author who uses the device of digression moreso than Saramago. For me, the near-constant philosophizing of the narrator and the characters is one of the things that I love the most about his work. This is the fifth Saramago book I have read and it has helped me arrive at the conclusion that he is my favorite living author.
There is no point in my re-stating the plot or storyline because the amazon page itself (above) really provides a perfect synopsis. So do the fine reviews that follow mine here on this page. But here is the one thing that I would ask the prospective reader to ponder…
What would it be like to suddenly find that there is another person in the world that is exactly like you, in every respect? Another YOU! A double. A doppelganger.
In its psychological twistings and turnings and in a writing style that is as wonderful and coherent as it is inimitable and unorthodox, this is the very question that Saramago brings the reader FACE to FACE with!
My initial answer to the question was “Hmmm, no big deal. So what? I have a double. Who cares?” With The Double, Saramago has now blown the lid off of such an easy answer. Sure, the book is not ABOUT me or you, but in Tertuliano Maximo we see shades of who we all are. And the thoughtful (and patient) reader will find that they are drawn into a vortex of identity trauma along with the protagonist himself.
Who AM I, if there is another me?

Irving, we are each other’s doppelgangers.


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