The Double (novel)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Double (O Homem Duplicado) is a 2001 novel by Portuguese author José Saramago.

Plot summary

Tertuliano Máximo Afonso is a divorced high school history teacher who spends his nights reading about Mesopotamian civilizations. One day, at a colleague's suggestion, Tertuliano rents a movie in which he sees a man that looks exactly like him. Tertuliano becomes obsessed with meeting the man and spends weeks discovering the actor's name. He then sends a letter to the production company, from his girlfriend's address, posing as a film student in order to be put in contact with the actor. His relationship with his girlfriend, Maria da Paz, suffers because he refuses to disclose to her his motives. After receiving his phone number and address, Tertuliano stalks his twin, António Claro, eventually calling him. Claro's wife thinks Tertuliano is her husband. When finally the two men talk, they discover their voices are exactly the same and they share identical scars and moles. Initially, António Claro dismisses Tertuliano and refuses to meet, but he later contacts him and agrees. They decide to meet at Claro's country home in a week.

Tertuliano buys a fake beard and drives out of town to meet Claro. Upon arrival, the men strip down and find that they are indeed identical, and they discover they were born on the same month, day, and year. Before Tertuliano leaves, Claro asks him to clarify one more thing: the exact time he was born. He wants to know which one of them is the original, and which is the double. Tertuliano tells him that he was born at two in the afternoon. Smugly, Claro informs Tertuliano that he was born a half hour earlier, making him the original. Tertuliano gets up to leave, telling Claro he still has one small compensation in that Claro will be the first to die, thereby making himself, the duplicate, into the original. To this, Claro responds, "Well, I hope you enjoy those thirty-one minutes of personal, absolute, and exclusive identity, because that is all you will enjoy from now on." The men agree that they have no reason to ever meet again, and Tertuliano leaves.

Tertuliano sends the fake beard to António Claro, who has not been able to stop thinking about the meeting. Meanwhile, Tertuliano and Maria get engaged to be married. Claro wonders about the circumstances under which Tertuliano was able to obtain his phone number and address. After visiting the production company offices, Claro comes to possess the letter, written by Tertuliano but signed by his girlfriend, Maria da Paz, and bearing her address. Donning the fake beard, Claro stakes out Maria's apartment and, finding her very attractive, he follows her to work. Claro realizes that Tertuliano has not told Maria da Paz about their situation.

Soon after, Claro pays Tertuliano a visit at his home. He presents Tertuliano with the letter that he obtained from the production company, with Maria da Paz's signature. Tertuliano tells him to leave and threatens to call the police. Claro responds that he, in turn, will call Maria da Paz and inform her of the whole situation. Tertuliano is stunned and asks Claro what he wants. Claro tells him he intends to spend the night with Maria. In fact, Claro has already contacted her and persuaded her to spend the night with him at his country home of which, posing as Tertuliano, he explains he is a potential buyer. Claro views his actions as revenge for Tertuliano's disruption into his married, stable life. Furious and ashamed, Tertuliano gives Claro his clothes, identification, and the keys to his car in order for Claro to fully sell his appearance to Maria da Paz.

After Claro leaves, Tertuliano dresses in the clothes the other man has left behind, gets in Claro's car and drives to his house where he proceeds to make love to Claro's wife, Helena. In the morning, she makes him breakfast while he reads the paper; she never suspects that it is not her husband.

Meanwhile, Maria da Paz and António Claro have spent the night together as well. In the morning, Maria wakes first and notices the indentation on Claro's finger from years of wearing a wedding ring. She deduces that the man is not Tertuliano. Hysterical, she demands to be taken home.

At first, Tertuliano hopes that Claro will return to find him in bed with his wife, but as time passes, his anxiety concerning Maria da Paz causes him to leave and he rushes to a pay phone to call her house. A colleague of Maria's answers the phone and informs Tertuliano that Maria da Paz died earlier that morning in a car accident.

Tertuliano, realizing that his life as he knows it is now over, checks into a hotel and calls his mother to tell her he is alive. She meets him at the hotel and he tells her everything. The next day, he buys a newspaper to learn the details of the accident: a head on collision with a truck. The truck driver, when questioned by police, revealed that the passengers in the car appeared to be quarreling before their automobile crossed the center lane and crashed into the truck. Tertuliano drives back to António Claro's house and reveals himself to Helena, telling her that the man who died was not Tertuliano, but her husband. He presents to her António's identification and asks for her forgiveness, to which she responds, "Forgive is just a word." Helena asks Tertuliano to stay with her and take the place of her husband and he accepts.

Three days later, as Tertuliano is reading on Mesopotamian civilization, the phone rings. Tertuliano answers and the voice on the other end exlaims, "At last!" in a voice identical to his own. The man has been trying to reach him for months, and claims to be his double; Tertuliano agrees to meet him in a park nearby that night. Tertuliano changes clothes, loads the pistol he keeps in the house and puts it through his belt; he writes Helena a note, "I'll be back" and goes to meet the man.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Double (novel)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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