47. Death with Interruptions, by José Saramago
"The following day, no one died." Thus begins this odd little book in which Saramago imagines what happens in a country in which no one dies. People who should die remain just this side of death. At first, the country rejoices. Death is vanquished! But then reality sets in. Who will care for those who ought to be dead? What will become of undertakers, and the issuers of life insurance policies? The Catholic Church realizes that if there is no death, there could no resurrection, and therefore no point to having a church. When it is discovered that death's hiatus is confined to one country, a profitable business springs up to smuggle across the border those who ought to be dead.
Then, after several months of no one dying, a letter on violet-colored paper mysteriously appears on the desk of the director-general of television, a letter from death (small "d", as she insists). Te letter announces that people will start to die again, but that from now on they will receive due warning from her, in the form of a violet-colored letter. So death begins again, but, to her surprise, one letter keeps coming back to her. The intended recipient does not die on schedule. She, curious, follows him. What happens when death falls in love?
How does an individual react to the unexpected? How does a society? When social norms are upended, uncontrollably, what happens?