My rating: 4 stars
José Saramago really knew how to play with words and convey a socially relevant message without overlooking the plot. O Homem Duplicado, The Double in the English translation, is mainly a book about the human condition, in the sense that delves into how people want to feel like they are unique and so struggle to come to terms with being equal to others and not particularly original.
Tertuliano Máximo Afonso, the main character in this novel, is quite a peculiarly named History teacher at a secondary school in an unidentified city. He has been suffering from depression, since he got divorced and started to live alone. One of his colleagues, a Mathematics teacher, advises him to watch some films, so he can get distracted from his troubles. He takes his colleague advice and goes to a store to rent a VHS tape.
After watching the film that was recommended to him, he realises that the actor who played the short role of a hotel receptionist looks a lot like him, despite having a moustache and a different hairstyle. He then remembers that the film was actually released five years before and goes looking for a photograph of himself from that period. When he finds one, he sees that at the time he also had a moustache and the same haircut as the actor. The two of them look exactly the same after all. This discovery affects Tertuliano Máximo Afonso profoundly, although deep down he knows it is nonsensical to feel that way. Continue reading