Book Review: The Double by José Saramago

The Double by José SaramagoThis is a classic that I bought after I read Blindness, a dystopian novel that I loved. The Double is again a non-realistic novel, but closer to reality than Blindness. In fact, the only strange thing is that a man discovers there is someone who looks identical to him living in the same town.

Tertuliano Maximo Afonso, a History teacher, is depressed. His colleague, a Maths teacher, suggests he watches some fun DVDs to lift his spirits. The movie recommended by the Maths teacher includes a man that looks exactly like Tertuliano.

He then tries to find out who this man is, and how he can contact him. What happens next is all the result of him wanting to keep this similarity quiet from the people around him. I wasn’t quite clear why he found it necessary to keep this knowledge from people, but he goes through some trouble in order to make sure it does not become known.

There is of course a bit more to the story, but not a lot. The actual storyline is quite thin. Most of the fun of reading this book comes from the observations and reflections Tertuliano makes on the situation. A lot of it is anticipation of what people might say or do. While this is entertaining, it made reading the book quite slow, not helped by the sparse punctuation (lack of quotes and new lines in dialogs, for instance).

I loved the fact that in this very normal world that Tertuliano lives in, there is this one discrepancy: a man completely alike to himself (including identical scars and moles). It’s a fun but also tedious story, and not everyone will enjoy this. But if you loved Blindness, you must definitely try this book.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Number of pages: 304 (Dutch edition: De man in duplo)

First published: 2002 (Portugese: O Homem Duplicado)

I got this: bought at a secondhand book market

Genre: literary fiction, classic

Extra: My review of Blindness.

Extra: I read this for the TBR Challenge 2013 and for the Eclectic Reader Challenge The 2013 TBR Pile ChallengeEclectic Reader Challenge


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

11 Responses to Book Review: The Double by José Saramago

  1. This sounds more spare than I’d expected. I am sure I have Blindness on my bookshelf somewhere, will have put that in a reading pile again after hearing you loved it.

  2. Tesney Ap says:

    This sounded like something I read long time ago at first. I don’t remember the book name, but the story was very similar accept that there’s ghost at the end of the story. But what a fun review, Judith 🙂

  3. Blindness is one of my favourite books and so I bought this one on the back of that too. I think I only gave this one 4/5 stars when I finished it, but this is one of those books that seems to get better over time. I’d rate it much higher now. Finding a double is really scary when you start to think about it!

  4. Marie says:

    This sounds really fun – how creepy would it be to have a doppelganger? Blindness doesn’t sound familiar to me, I’m not sure if I’ve come across it before. Will have to look into it.

  5. Athira says:

    I’ve only read one Saramago (The Elephant’s Journey) but I find this book and the one I read quite similar in construction. The plot really is quite thin. Like you mentioned, the whole fun was on what people did, how they thought, what the elephant thought, etc. I wonder if that is Saramago’s style, at least in some books.

  6. Isi says:

    I read Blindness and I liked it very much. The way of writing is disturbing at first with the dialogues included in the text, but you get used to it in a few pages and seriously, is very difficult to write in that way and get a good result in the book.
    I also want to read this book you reviewed, and a lot of books written by him that I have at home, waiting…

  7. Charlie says:

    Interesting information about the observations he makes, if it keeps it going whilst the pace is slow they must be pretty good. Sounds quite mysterious, as though the teacher had a plan.

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