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Cain (2009)

by José Saramago

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1235612,287 (3.76)118
"In this, his last novel, Saramago daringly reimagines the characters and narratives of the Bible through the story of Cain. Condemned to wander forever after he kills Abel, he is whisked around in time and space. He experiences the almost-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, the Tower of Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Joshua at the battle of Jericho, Job's ordeal, and finally Noah's ark and the Flood. And over and over again Cain encounters an unjust, even cruel God. A startling, beautifully written, and powerful book, in all ways a fitting end to Saramago's extraordinary career"--… (more)
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» See also 118 mentions

English (36)  Spanish (8)  Italian (3)  French (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Saramago has been among my favorite contemporary authors ever since I became acquainted with his works in 2000. He is a genius in carrying the narrative in unexpected directions, and the way his prose flows seems so effortless it’s impossible to comprehend fully the talent involved. And then there’s his ability to use the narrator’s voice to inject wit and occasional wisdom into the work. In short, his works read well, they’re fun and often deeply humane.

At 176 pages Cain is just too long. Saramago’s narration has that usual wit (”man doesn’t live by bread alone” is a brilliant moment), but most of the time he seems too witty for his own sake, and this becomes apparent as the narrative progresses and the narrative device employed wears itself out. Instead of substance what we seem to get is window-shopping: Saramago ransacks the pages of the Old Testament and points at the obvious things modern readers find laughable, and laughs. I would have yearned for something concentrated, that is, a more rooted and focused story of Cain, which, I think, is inherently tragic. By this I don’t mean there couldn’t have been any comedy. But now Cain reads like the done-to-death archetypically scornful atheist reading of the Old Testament, which it is, of course, but offering very little else for someone like me who has actually heard these arguments before quite a few times concerning the Old Testament or the Bible in general, be they theological or literary.

In terms of the English language translation, Margaret Jull Costa’s works is very beautiful. ( )
  Thay1234 | May 27, 2020 |
AMAZING. beautiful writing, engaging and VERY funny. maybe it is not a fair comparison, but the last time i remember laughing this much was reading Kurt Vonnegut.


( )
  aabtzu | May 18, 2020 |
Beginning with his murder of his brother, Abel, Cain, son of Adam and Eve, begins his God-imposed exile through the major stories of the Old Testament of the Bible. Cain participates in some events and merely observes others, but in each, he is led to the conclusions that the "god" represented by each story is inconsistent with the "god" Christians profess to believe in. Rather than a kind, merciful, loving god, Cain finds a god of trivial caprices, unreasonable angers, incredible cruelty, manifest injustices and trivial human vanity.
The book is never "preachy", never presented as an atheist's view of religion. Instead, it presents the stories and contexts of the Old Testament in ways that reveal that the god of faith is not the god the Bible presents him to be.
While I liked the book and its storyline, I deplore the modernist fashion of ignoring standard English syntax, rules of grammar, or standard punctuation. For example, there is a lot of dialog in the book, but not one single quotation mark. A bunch of words may start with a capital letter and end with a period many lines later, but between these two, two speakers may converse, a descriptive segment may occur and various narration may be included, yet these are not separated and little punctuation is used to help the reader make sense of the grammatical structure.
This may be an innovative and modern way to write--I have seen it in other contemporary writings lately--but it serves no positive purpose and causes the reader to work to hard in order to extract meaning from the page.
I would read this Nobel Prize winning author again based on his material, but I will not do so because of this unnecessary and unproductive abandonment of effective grammar and mechanics.
( )
  Paul-the-well-read | Apr 18, 2020 |
Parts of it seems to be plagerized from the Satan Verses. But had a good ending. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Feb 13, 2020 |
This was a great literary fiction book. It details the inception, actions, and journey of the biblical figure of Cain. The style is very strong and manages to lend a lot to the tale that Saramago allows to develop. I found myself absolutely absorbed in this work and unable to put it down. It was, truly, a fine creation and one that I'm sure will stick with me despite the fact that I am not religious in any kind of way. This is worth it for those interested in world literature or the Nobel laureates.

4.5 stars- FULLY deserved. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Jul 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
José Saramagoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Costa, Margaret JullTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rio, Pilar delTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
C'est par la foi qu'Abel offrit à Dieu un sacrifice plus excellent  que celui de Caïn ; c'est par elle qu'il fut déclaré juste, Dieu approuvant ses offrandes ; et c'est par elle qu'il parle encore, quoique mort.
Hébreux, 11,4.
Livre des absurdités
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Quand le seigneur, connu aussi sous le nom de dieu, s'aperçut qu'adam et ève, parfaits en tout ce qui se présentait à la vue, ne pouvaient faire sortir un seul mot de leur bouche ni émettre ne fût-ce qu'un simple son primitif, il dut sûrement s'irriter contre lui-même puisqu'il n'y avait personne d'autre dans le jardin d'éden qu'il pût rendre responsable de cette gravissime erreur, alors que tous les autres animaux, produits, comme les deux humaine, du que cela soit divin, bénéficiaient déjà d'une voix qui leur était propre , les uns au moyen de mugissements et de rugissements, les autres de grognements, et de gazouillements, de sifflements et de gloussements.
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The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn't understand us, and we don't understand him.
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