“Saramago juxtaposes an eminently readable narrative of work and poverty, class and desire, knowledge and timelessness—one in which God, too, as he faces Cain in the wake of Noah's Ark, emerges as far more human than expected.” —San Francisco Chronicle
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.
With breathtaking imagination, acclaimed Portuguese author Saramago (1922-2010), winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, revels in biblical themes for his final novel. When Cain, the first-born son of Adam and Eve, murders his brother in rebellion against God, God shares in the guilt ("you gods should...take the blame for all the crimes committed in your name," Cain argues) and makes Cain "a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth." Cain's travels across a barren landscape lead him to a lusty tryst with Lilith and the witnessing, or altering, of many key events of the Old Testament (the building of the Tower of Babel; the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah). God appears often and is defined less by his perfection than his faults; He is morally ambiguous, "can't bear to see anyone happy," and doesn't understand his powerlessness in preventing Cain's meddling. Rounding out the narrative are angels who circumvent God's will, visions of the urban modernity that the future holds, an ironic description of Darwinian evolution, and God himself touting the heliocentric theory that will cause something of a ruckus five centuries on. Cain's vagabond journey builds to a stunning climax that, like the book itself, is a fitting capstone to a remarkable career.