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Cain [Paperback]

Jose Saramago , Margaret Jull Costa
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 July 2012

After killing his brother Abel, Cain must wander for ever. He witnesses Noah's ark, the destruction of the Tower of Babel, Moses and the golden calf. He is there in time to save Abraham from sacrificing Isaac when God's angel arrives late after a wing malfunction.

Written in the last years of Saramago's life, Cain wittily tackles many of the moral and logical non sequiturs created by a wilful, authoritarain God, forming part of Saramago's long argument with God and recalling his provocative novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 July 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0099552248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099552246
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

José Saramago was born in Portugal in 1922 and has been a full-time writer since 1979. His oeuvre embraces plays, poetry, short stories, non-fiction and novels, which have been translated into more than forty languages and have established him as the most influential Portuguese writer of his generation. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.

Product Description


"There are some very funny moments in this reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve's fratricidal son... Hats must be doffed once again to Margaret Jull Costa, Saramago's fearless long-time translator, for taming his punctuation-free prose, rendering it not only readable, but enjoyable, and for bringing the late Portuguese author's often challenging work to a worldwide readership" (Financial Times)

"José Saramago's final novel is an inventory of God's less noble flawed and wonderful a place to inhabit as the world his cosmic nemesis created" (Sunday Herald)

"Every page of this novella, translated with a fluent and light touch by Margaret Jull Costa, has its charm. Every page raises difficult the final testament of Portuguese master, it is suitably disturbing and a pleasure to read" (Scotsman)

"Saramago's breathless prose, expertly rendered into English by Margaret Jull Costa...conveys the sheer enjoyment of a writer bowing out at the top of his form" (Sunday Times)

"Cain reminds us why Saramago's work remains vitally important" (Metro)

Book Description

A controversial book in the mode of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ and the last novel to be written before the death of the great Portuguese novelist and Nobel Prize winner, José Saramago.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great work by a great master 5 Oct 2011
"The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn't understand us and we don't understand him."
This is one of those books that one truly enjoys to read; and I did. Saramago in this, his last offering before he passed away, recreates in his own special way the life of Cain and offers the reader, especially the one who's not too attached to the words of the scriptures, a chance to have a few good laughs. While reading it, I dare to admit that, I found myself agreeing time and again with the somewhat heretical views of the author.
At the beginning it was not to the Word, but simply the creation of the world, since, as we read, when god made man forgot to give to him the gift of speech. However, after he did give it to him maybe he came to regret it because if he hadn't then Cain wouldn't be able to speak and thus verbally annoy and abuse him for all eternity.
First things first though. According to Saramago the first people were less than perfect. They were kind of stupid and full of flaws. When they were expelled from paradise actually "Adam and Eve resembled a couple of orangutans who had stood upright for the first time." However, as time started going by they improved a bit, since they now had to work to make a living. As the story goes they set up home on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where with the help of the animals that followed them to exile, they started working the land. Of course at the beginning things were not so easy for them so Eve, every now and then, had to take a walk towards paradise and beg the angels to give her some fruits.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cutting through layers of befuddle 10 Mar 2012
By M. D. Holley TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What is it about the Bible that makes us leave our brains behind as soon as we open it? Why does our normal intelligence lose its ability to understand what is written there before our own eyes in plain English.

The wonder of Saramago's book is that he helps us get past this mental block and understand what is written. It's a bit like putting on a pair of glasses after being half blind.

Saramago retells the Old Testament stories in clarity through the eyes of Cain, as he time travels from one episode to another. Saramago is quite restrained - he does not distort or exaggerate the stories, and often they are retold almost word for word from the Bible. The book often contrasts and compares the violence Cain causes, and the violence God causes, and leaves you to ponder your own conclusion from this.

The result is an enjoyable read, taken alone as a novel, and is a revelation if you consider the deeper meanings.

Thoroughly recommended, and I shall be seeking out more Saramago!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the beginning was the mark 29 Aug 2011
By Hande Z
We might expect that people at the age of 87 to be discreet, if not cautious, about the subject of God, but only the fervent servants of faith and the strongly confident atheist would pick a Biblical character and weave him into adventures through the early period of human history according to the Old Testament. This book shows clearly which category Saramago is in. His aim was to analyse the significance of Cain's killing of his brother Abel, and how that act was proof, not only of the duality of God's own nature, but also the ambiguity of man's own. What led Cain to the murder of his brother? Was it his own fallen, evil nature, or was he set up by God? In the process, Saramago makes Cain participate in other major incidents in the Old Testament, including Abraham's attempted murder of his son Isaac, the fall of the Tower of Babel, the battle of Jericho, and most prominently, the family life of Noah and his great mission. Why was Cain, in this account, be interferring with God's plan? The reader is drawn inexorably to reflect on God's intentions in the first place, and whether they were foiled by God's own lack of a clear and thorough planning, incompetence, or by the rebellion of His creation. In the process, the character of God and Cain will be scrutinized in glaring light.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
I always look forward to novels that explore the imaginative hinterland of biblical characters, and the story of Cain is one that offers great promise. But, by and large, I was disappointed by Saramago's offering. It does, to be sure, have some funny episodes, and Saramago allows his character to roam at will across the early episodes of the Hebrew Bible in a way that gives him plenty of scope for wonderfully sardonic dialogue with both its human actors and its divine ones, whether God or angels. There is some genuinely sharp questioning of divine motives and intent, especially in the story of Abraham and Isaac, while Cain's anger at God's treatment of Job is a philosophically astute high-point of this ably-translated book. But too often, Cain's (and therefore Saramago's) outrage takes the predictable course that previous righteously indignant authors have taken when confronted with the Bible's excesses, and isn't fresh or particularly perceptive. On balance, just about entertaining enough to persevere with, but ultimately disappoints.
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