VCRs kind of freak me out already because sometimes you can watch a video on them and then your phone rings and then seven days later you die, right? So I read the back of The Double and it’s all, Tertuliano watched a movie on his VCR and then went to bed and then in the middle of the night his VCR started playing the video again and Tertuliano’s EXACT DOUBLE appeared on the screen. Eaugh!!!!
The Double – Jose Saramago
So that freaked me out for, like, eight seconds before I got to the part of the book where that allegedly happens and it doesn’t happen. At least, not in that freaky-deaky second-tier horror film kind of way where the VCR spontaneously turns on and the double is staaaaaaaring into the roooooooom like he can seeeeeeeeeee you!
Because the double is just an actor, playing a bit part in this movie and looking EXACTLY like Tertuliano did five years ago, and zomg this movie is five years old. Incroyable!
And then about 200 pages go by wherein Tertuliano tries to solve this mystery in the most round-a-bout way possible and it’s seriously boring as hell but it’s that good kind of boring where you’re sort of ok with reading it, and I’m not sure if I have brain damage in this area because I will forgive Saramago things I’d disembowel other authors for, like sentences that go on for half a page (frequently) and a complete lack of dialogue tags, or even line breaks between dialogue so that when a conversation goes on for more than two or three lines I have no idea who’s talking, and how he’s constantly addressing me, the reader, as though the action in the book were happening in real-time and he had to occupy me while Tertuliano drove his car home and had no real interesting thoughts. These are all stupid and irritating quirks, and I’m totally ok with them.
But to resume. Tertuliano eventually discovers both the name and the address of his double, and pseudo-stalks him. This is where it gets all soap-opera-y and where Saramago more than makes up for the previous lack of dramadramadrama. I am going to do the Spoiler Dance, but I will do so in white space so if you have no plans to read the book or don’t care if I rain on your parade, Select-All this bastard and read on.
Ok, so he finds his double and the double is freaked out and kind of pissed that Tertuliano would bring this upon him so in revenge the double (who is sauntering into Evil Twin territory) goes to visit Tertuliano and is all, I just phoned up your fiancee who you neglected to tell about this whole situation and either you give me your clothes and ID and I go doink her OR I tell her what’s what, and so Tertuliano hands over the clothes and ID but the double has to leave his clothes and ID at Tert’s house so he can go doink the fiancee, so Tert dresses up as the double and goes to doink the double’s wife and then while he’s waiting the next day for the double to come home and see how he’s been double-crossed (turbo-puns!) he gets the news that ‘Tertuliano’ and his fiancee were in a car accident AND ARE NOW DEEED! Get out of that, if you can.
So…whew. And ok, my feelings on Saramago are a mixed bag. Blindness was horrifyingly awesome. The Cave was really very good. The Double was totally brilliant, but there were points where I was all, Does this smack of magical realism? Am I hating it?
In the end, I feel that I can say with John Updike in a line I wish I’d written, ‘…he can bring any impossibility to life by hurling words at it.’ Do you hear me, Saramago? It appears that I am your bitch, and will take anything that you toss into the litosphere. You may continue to bring it.