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The Cave [Paperback]

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

6 Nov 2003

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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (6 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099449153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099449157
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 345,603 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


A novel with impact... hope and charm -- Independent

Book Description

By the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. 'A novel with impact...hope and charm' Independent

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
In this metaphysical and surrealistic novel, Saramago transforms Plato's Allegory of the Cave into a contemporary novel about Cipriano Algor, a man in his sixties who lives in a small village, where he practices his trade as a potter. Living in tune with nature as he digs clay from the earth, works it with his hands, and fires it in an old, family-owned kiln, Cipriano suddenly finds himself without a livelihood when a mysterious and all-powerful Center rejects his real pottery in favor of longer-lasting plastic. And when Cipriano's real life in his small village is also sacrificed for a totally controlled life in an apartment in the Center, Saramago vividly illustrates how the shadows of artificial things are often mistaken for reality in contemporary society, which does not favor "inquisitive ones," searching for life's essence.
Despite the novel's allegorical structure and didactic message, Saramago creates warm characters who inspire the belief that the good, kind, and sensitive souls of the world can survive, and perhaps triumph on some level. Love and family matter here, despite Cipriano's belief that he is "merely the largest of the bits of clay [in the yard], a small dry clod that will crumble with the slightest pressure." Though he is a molder of clay, he recognizes that there are also forces being exerted on him.
Filled with meditations on literature, reading, the creative process, experimentation, and individuality, the novel is both intellectually exciting and very challenging. Unfortunately, Saramago's style is more daunting than his message. Omitting all quotation marks, question marks, and the conventions of paragraphing and sentence structure, he challenges the reader to distill the reality of his message from the shadows of his style.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid But Not Outstanding 25 Jan 2005
Nobel Prize meets The Matrix in Saramago's parable of modern capitalism, which urges the reader to reject the materialist worldview increasingly embraced around the world and forge their own path. The only other book of his I've read is Blindness (which is an outstanding work), and this novel shares that one's setting of an unnamed country in the near future. Outside an unnamed city, an old man makes pottery, which he brings into town to tell at "The Center"-a kind of megalith mall which is slowly enveloping the city around it. A combination Walmart and Mall of the Americas, The Center sells everything one needs (one of their creepy slogans is "We Have What You Need, But We Prefer You Need What We Have), and houses apartments, amusements, and everything one needs to enjoy life, including simulated snow storms. Almost everyone aspires to live in the Center, so as to be closer to all these attract/distractions.
The framework of the sparse story is that The Center cancels their standing order with the potter, forcing him to confront his dying trade. Without any other market to sell to, he and his daughter try to convince The Center to buy ceramic dolls instead. When they agree and order 1,200 dolls, the duo must race to mass produce this new item in their old-fashioned workshop. An additional tension is added by the daughter's husband, who wants them all to move to The Center, where he works as a security guard. Other subplots include the appearance of a stray dog and a local widow's interest in the potter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Plato's cave more relevant than ever 9 Jun 2003
By A Customer
Ultimately a highly rewarding book, whose beautifully drawn characters amplify the startling simplicity of the underlying premise. The writer's penchant for bending the conventions of grammar make the book more of a challenge than it should be, but the underlying warmth and the wisdom of Saramago's observations overcome any minor complaints.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forever enchanting 19 Dec 2010
This is a review not only to "Cave" by Jose Saramago, but to all his books. I have lived all my life in Portugal, and since my early childhood people around me have talked of Mr. Saramago, saying how great he is, or in fact he was, and how good it was to read his novels.
For anybody who truly wants to read this book, you should be warned that, at least in portuguese, his prose is extremely complex, hard to comprehend, and it takes time to synchronise with it. But I got to tell, once that happens, it is going to be awesome, mind blowing, and if you don't get hooked by that I'm very, very sorry for you.
If you enjoy the book, you can read everything else by him, because there's a feeling of sameness in quality, always the same very high level of essence, while having totally different stories all the time.
His books are hard to comprehend not only because of the prose, but also because of the content. It is philosophical, psychological and you always get something from it.
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