In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. In José Saramago's remarkable and imaginative retelling, Solomon and his keeper, Subhro, begin in dismal conditions, forgotten in a corner of the palace grounds. When it occurs to the king and queen that an elephant would be an appropriate wedding gift, everyone rushes to get them ready: Subhro is given two new suits of clothes and Solomon a long overdue scrub. Accompanied by the Archduke, his new wife, and the royal guard, these unlikely heroes traverse a continent riven by the Reformation and civil wars, witnessed along the way by scholars, historians, and wide-eyed ordinary people as they make their way through the storied cities of northern Italy; they brave the Alps and the terrifying Isarco and Brenner Passes; across the Mediterranean Sea and up the Inn River; and at last, toward their grand entry into the imperial city.
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.
“Unmistakably Saramago . . . There is no shortage of wonders to be found in [Skylight].” — Washington Post
“A fascinating and startlingly mature work . . . The book is a gem.” — Boston Globe
Lisbon, late 1940s. The inhabitants of a faded apartment building are struggling to make ends meet: Silvio the cobbler and his wife take in a disaffected young lodger; Dona Lídia, a retired prostitute, is kept by a businessman with a roving eye. Humble salesman Emilio’s Spanish wife is in a permanent rage; beautiful Claudinha’s boss lusts for her; Justina and her womanizer husband live at war with each other. Happy marriages, abusive relationships, jealousy, gossip, love—Skylight is a portrait of ordinary people painted by the master of the quotidian, a great observer of the immense beauty and profound hardship of the modern world.
“The gifted young Saramago makes these characters click together in a way that's extremely sympathetic.” — NPR, All Things Considered
“It was only a matter of time before a work of such extraordinary honesty and perception would make its way into the world.” — San Francisco Chronicle
The loneliness of people's lives, the effects of chance, the discovery of love–all coalesce in this extraordinary novel that displays the power and art of José Saramago in brilliant form.
In this, his last novel, José Saramago daringly reimagines the characters and narratives of the Old Testament, recalling his provocative The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. His tale runs from the Garden of Eden, when God realizes he has forgotten to give Adam and Eve the gift of speech, to the moment when Noah’s Ark lands on the dry peak of Ararat. Cain, the despised, the murderer, is Saramago’s protagonist.
Condemned to wander forever after he kills his brother Abel, Cain makes his way through the world in the company of a personable donkey. He is a witness to and participant in the stories of Isaac and Abraham, the destruction of the Tower of Babel, Moses and the golden calf, the trials of Job. The rapacious Queen Lilith takes him as her lover. An old man with two sheep on a rope crosses his path. And again and again, Cain encounters a God whose actions seem callous, cruel, and unjust. He confronts Him, he argues with Him. “And one thing we know for certain,” Saramago writes, “is that they continued to argue and are arguing still.”
A startling book—sensual, funny—and in all ways a fitting end to Saramago’s extraordinary career.
“A winkingly blasphemous retelling of the Old Testament . . . Saramago, playfully stretching his chatty late style, pokes holes in the stated logic of the Biblical God throughout the novel.” —The New Yorker This e-book includes a sample chapter of BLINDNESS.
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.