Solomon the elephant's life is about to be upturned. For two years he has been in Lisbon, brought from the Portuguese colonies in India. Now King Dom João III wishes to make him a wedding gift for the Hapsburg archduke, Maximilian. It's a nice idea, since it avoids the Portuguese king offending his Lutheran cousin with an overtly Catholic present. But it means the poor pachyderm must travel from Lisbon to Vienna on foot - the only option when transporting a large animal such a long way. So begins a journey that will take the stalwart Solomon across the dusty plains of Castile, over the sea to Genoa and up to northern Italy where, like Hannibal's elephants before him, he must cross the snowy Alps. Accompanying him is his quiet keeper, Subhro, who watches while - at every place they stop - people try to turn Solomon into something he is not. From worker of holy miracles to umbrella stand, the unassuming elephant suffers the many attempts of humans to impose meaning on what they don't understand.
Saramago's latest novel is an enchanting mix of fact (an Indian elephant really did make this journey in 1551), fable and fantasy. Filled with wonderful landscapes and local colour, peppered with witty reflection on human failings and achievements, it is, in the end, about the journey of life itself
"A man went to knock at the king's door and said, Give me a boat. The king's house had many other doors, but this was the door for favours (favours being offered to the king, you understand), whenever he heard someone knocking on the door for petitions, he would pretend not to hear..." Why the petitioner required a boat, where he was bound for, and who volunteered to crew for him and what cargo it was found to be carrying the reader will discover as this short narrative unfolds. And at the end it will be clear that what night appear to be a children's fable is in fact a wry, witty Philosophical Tale that would not have displeased Voltaire or Swift.
Cipriano Algor, an ageing potter, lives with his daughter and her husband in the shadow of the Centre, a nebulous, constantly expanding conglomerate that provides his livelihood - until it decrees that it is no longer interested in his humble wares. Together with his daughter, they craft a new line of small ceramic figurines and, to their bafflement, the Centre orders vast quantities. But once the figures are complete, the Centre recants: there is no market for them. Resigned to idleness Cipriano moves into the soulless megaplex, until late one night he comes across a horrifying secret in the bowels of the artificial city. The Cave is a harrowing, joyful masterpiece: an Orwellian nightmare, a family fable and an uplifting love story.
What happens when the facts of history are replaced by the mysteries of love?
When Raimundo Silva, a lowly proof-reader for a Lisbon publishing house, inserts a negative into a sentence of a historical text, he alters the whole course of the 1147 Siege of Lisbon. Fearing censure he is met instead with admiration: Dr Maria Sara, his voluptuous new editor, encourages him to pen his own alternative history. As his retelling draws on all his imaginative powers, Silva finds - to his nervous delight - that if the facts of the past can be rewritten as a romance then so can the details of his own dusty bachelor present.
'Let yourself be led by the child you were.' The Book of Exhortations Born in Portugal in 1922 in the tiny village of Azinhaga, José Saramago was only eighteen months old when he moved with his father and mother to live in a series of cramped lodgings in a working-class neighbourhood of Lisbon. Nevertheless, he would return to the village throughout his childhood and adolescence, its river landscape and olive groves seeping deep into his memory.
Shifting back and forth between Azinhaga and Lisbon, this touching book is a mosaic of memories, a gathering together of the fragmented recollections that make up the idea of one's youth. Lust, love, humiliation, aspiration - the raptures and miseries of childhood are beautifully captured: Saramago's grandparents bringing the weaker piglets into their bed to keep them warm; the young José proudly carrying his first balloon on a string, only to be mocked by two strangers as it empties of air, the shrivelled remains dragging behind him; his first encounter with literature as he listens entranced to a friend's mother reading out weekly instalments of Maria, the Fairy of the Forest, and the seven-year-old José doggedly teaching himself to read by deciphering articles in the daily newspaper brought home by his father.
Written with Saramago's characteristic wit and honesty, Small Memories traces the formation of an artist fascinated by words and stories from an early age and who emergd, against all the odds, as one of the world's most respected writers.
Two decades after Portuguese novelist and Nobel Laureate José Saramago shocked the religious world with his novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, he has done it again with Cain, a satire of the Old Testament. Written in the last years of Saramago's life, it tackles many of the moral and logical non sequiturs created by a wilful, authoritarian God, and forms part of Saramago's long argument with religion.
The stories in this book are witty and provocative. After Adam and Eve have been cast out of Eden, Eve decides to go back and ask the angel guarding the gate if he can give her some of the fruit that is going to waste inside. The angel agrees, and although Eve swears to Adam that she offered the angel nothing in return, their first child is suspiciously blond and fair-skinned. Cain, in his wandering, overhears a strange conversation between a man named Abraham and his son Isaac - and manages to prevent the father from murdering the son. The angel appointed by God to prevent the murder arrives late due to a wing malfunction. Cain brushes off his apology. 'What would have happened if I hadn't been here?' Cain asks, 'and what kind of god would ask a father to sacrifice his own son?' Saramago died in June 2010, shortly after the controversial Portuguese publication of Cain but before he could participate in its publication in other countries. Harvill Secker's edition of this remarkable book will be part o a tribute to Saramago's life and work which includes the gradual reissue of his previous novels as Vintage Classics.
In an unnamed country on the first day of the new year, people stop dying. Amid the general public, there is great celebration: flags are hung out on balconies and people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity - eternal life. Death is on strike.
Soon, though, the residents begin to suffer. For several months undertakers face bankruptcy, the church is forced to reinvent its doctrine, and local 'maphia' smuggle those on the brink of death over the border where they can expire naturally.
Death does return eventually, but with a new, courteous approach - delivering violet warning letters to her victims. But what can death do when a letter is unexpectedly returned?
Despite the heavy rain, the presiding officer at Polling Station 14 finds it odd that by midday on National Election day, only a handful of voters have turned out.
Puzzlement swiftly escalates to shock when eventually, after an extension, the final count reveals seventy per cent of the votes are blank - not spoiled, simply blank. National law decrees the election should be repeated eight days later. The result is worse; eighty-three per cent of the votes are blank. The incumbent government receives eight per cent and the opposition even less. The authorities, seized with panic, decamp from the capital and place it under a state of emergency.
In his new novel, José Saramago has deftly created the politician's ultimate nightmare: disillusionment not with one party, but with all, thereby rendering the entire democratic system useless. Seeing explores how simply this could be achieved and how devastating the results might be.
A wry, fictional account of the life of Christ by Nobel laureate José Saramago A brilliant skeptic, José Saramago envisions the life of Jesus Christ and the story of his Passion as things of this earth: A child crying, the caress of a woman half asleep, the bleat of a goat, a prayer uttered in the grayish morning light. His idea of the Holy Family reflects the real complexities of any family, and--as only Saramago can--he imagines them with tinges of vision, dream, and omen. The result is a deft psychological portrait that moves between poetry and irony, spirituality and irreverence of a savior who is at once the Son of God and a young man. In this provocative, tender novel, the subject of wide critical discussion and wonder, Saramago questions the meaning of God, the foundations of the Church, and human existence itself.
Among the file-cards for the living and the dead, one - of an apparently ordinary woman - will transform his life.
By day Senhor José labours in the labyrinthine stacks of the city's central registry. By night he ferrets for facts about the famous, compiling his own archive of births, deaths and marriages. One day he chances upon an index card of an ordinary woman whose details hold as much fascination for him as any celebrity's. Striking forth from the regimentation of his daily life, José starts to track the woman down, obsessively following a thread of clues in a bid to rescue her from an oblivion deeper than the grave.
A driver waiting at the traffic lights goes blind. An opthamologist tries to diagnose his distinctive white blindness, but is affected before he can read the textbooks. It becomes a contagion, spreading throughout the city. Trying to stem the epidemic, the authorities herd the afflicted into a mental asylum where the wards are terrorised by blind thugs. And when fire destroys the asylum, the inmates burst forth and the last links with a supposedly civilised society are snapped.
No food, no water, no government, no obligation, no order. This is not anarchy, this is blindness.
What if, one day, Europe was to crack along the length of the Pyrenees, separating the Iberian peninsula?
In Saramago's lovely fable, the new island is sent spinning, like a great stone raft, towards the Azores. While the authorities panic and tourists and investors flee, three men, two women and a dog are drawn together by portents that burden them with a bemusing sense of responsibility. Travelling at first packed into a car, then into a wagon, they take to the road to explore the limits of their now finite land, adrift in a world made new by this radical shift in perspective.
The inspiration for the major motion picture "Enemy" starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Denis Villeneuve Tertuliano Máximo Afonso is a divorced, depressed history teacher. To lift his spirits, a colleague suggests he rent a certain video. Tertuliano watches the film, unimpressed. But during the night, when he is awakened by noises in his apartment, he goes into the living room to find that the VCR is replaying the video. He watches in astonishment as a man who looks exactly like him-or, more specifically, exactly like he did five years before, mustachioed and fuller in the face-appears on the screen. He sleeps badly.
Against his better judgment, Tertuliano decides to pursue his double. As he roots out the man's identity, what begins as a whimsical story becomes a "wonderfully twisted meditation on identity and individuality" (The Boston Globe). Saramago displays his remarkable talent in this haunting tale of appearance versus reality.
In early 18th-century Lisbon, Baltasar, a soldier who has lost his left hand in battle, falls in love with Blimunda, a young girl with visionary powers. From the day that he follows her home from the auto-da-fe where her mother is burned at the stake, the two are bound body and soul by love of an unassailable strength. A third party shares their supper that evening: Padre Bartolomeu Lourenco, whose fantasy is to invent a flying machine. As the Crown and the Church clash, they purse his impossible, not to mention heretical, dream of flight.
From the misty mountains of the north to the southern seascape of the Algarve, the travels of Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago are a passionate rediscovery of his own land.
Setting off in his veteran motor car, Saramago wants to travel to Portugal, as well as through it: by making it his destination the acclaimed writer hopes to take stock of his native land as it hovers on the edge of the modern world. He is no typical guide - he avoids the "sights" in favour of a remote Romanesque church, a cobweb-ridden chapel, the local and the domestic - but, with his deep fount of memory and erudite knowledge, each encounter evoking the span of Portugal's history, he is anyone's idea of a delightful travelling companion.
The world's threats are universal like the sun but Ricardo Reis takes shelter under his own shadow.
Back in Lisbon after sixteen years practicing medicine in Brazil, Ricardo Reis wanders the rain-sodden streets. He longs for the unattainably aristocratic Marcenda, but it is Lydia, the hotel chamber maid who makes and shares his bed. His old friend, the poet Fernando Pessoa, returns to see him, still wearing the suit he was buried in six weeks earlier. It is 1936, the clouds of Fascism are gathering ominously above them, so they talk; a wonderful, rambling discourse on art, truth, poetry, philosophy, destiny and love.