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Caino by Jose Saramago
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Caino (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Jose Saramago, Rita Desti

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595None16,398 (3.68)67
Member:IoAnnalisa
Title:Caino
Authors:Jose Saramago
Other authors:Rita Desti
Info:Milano, Mondolibri, stampa 2010
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:narrativa portoghese, cristianesimo

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Cain by José Saramago (2009)

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English (21)  French (4)  Spanish (4)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This was Jose Saramago's last book and he obviously decided to make a serious attack on Christianity and the god of the Old Testament in a big way. He does this in his usual humorous and clever way and as a Happy Heathen myself it makes me wonder why there are not more writers doing this.
The story follows Cain as he leaves his home after murdering his brother and travelling around the Middle East coming upon the key events I remember from Sunday School bible readings. He finds himself with Isaac, Job, in Sodom, Jerico and waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai. He sees the work of a jealous and destructive god who flounces in and out in his best clothes and Cain is not happy with the actions of a god that is happy to kill innocent people and young children as well as those who have done 'wrong' just because he was too lazy and impatient to get those people out to safety first. The idea of the jealous god is taken to extremes when he gets friendly with a couple of angels while helping Noah build his arc; the angels admit that it is much more fun living on earth than heaven (it is just celestial throngs and singing in heaven) but they couldn't tell god because he would be jealous and cross. We end up with a vision of a god that doesn't really like what he has created and almost wishes he hadn't bothered. This is a fantastic and well thought through idea that Saramago takes to the limit and as John Updike so brilliantly put it, 'He can bring any improbability to life'.
Among the encounters with bible stories Saramago includes a fantasy section where Cain meets a 'volumptuous' woman who lives in a palace and who keeps him for her bed-mate for a few years. He shows Cain as an insatiable and brilliant lover. It is more difficult here to understanding what he is making fun of; the idea of a male slave kept as a lover for a woman; the fantasy of a beautiful woman wanting to spend every day having sex with you and you being that perfect lover or a sort of 'in your dreams' statement. It is not clear who is the oppressed in this relationship; Cain gets away and is missed but he is the one who has no other lover, she continues to use men to fulfil her desires after Cain has gone. Saramago shows Cain as a man that is unable to form any strong relationship bond with anyone and this is perhaps important for his final acts.
An excellent novel that is an easy read and made me laugh out loud despite Saramago style which is reminiscent of the bible, without the numbers. ( )
  Tifi | Apr 5, 2014 |
Entretenido, quizás su mayor virtud. Fuera de eso, narra un raro recorrido de Caín por el antiguo testamento (raro que deje de lado la vida de Caín que narra el propio Génesis tras el asuntito de Abel). Trasuda el popular antisemitismo de Saramago con afirmaciones lapidarias. Los argumentos son bastante poco originales, tratar a dios de psicópata (lo hace con más gracia, para mí, Frederic Brown) o de cruel a secas (mil otras referencias), notar las inconsistencias bíblicas del antiguo testamento desde lo más sintomático y cosas así. También me hizo acordar mucho a El viaje de los siete demonios, de Manuel Mujica Láinez, ese viaje en el espacio y en el tiempo hacia acontecimientos histórica o literariamente relevantes, cada tanto dios hace un aparte y dice algo secreto que contradice lo bíblico para luego agregar que no lo cuente a nadie (ese es un comodín que usa Saramago bastante chanta). Tiene su arbitrario uso de las mayúsculas y los bloques de párrafo, pero en definitiva es divertido el viaje y está muy bien escrito como novela de aventuras. El final, una discusión eterna entre Caín y dios, no podría ser más judaico. ( )
  gabrielgraves | Jan 13, 2014 |
Saramago came from a poor peasant family in Portugal and didn't gain significant recognition for his writing until he was 60 years old. He received the Nobel Prize in 1998 and [Cain], his last novel was published in 2009, the year before his death. The book tells the story of what happens to Cain after he is forced to roam the earth as punishment for killing his brother. He wanders through time as well as space, attending many of the major events of the Old Testament.
He didn't have to travel very far to leave behind him the sad present of the land of uz and find himself, instead, surrounded by green mountains and lush valleys flowing with streams of such pure, crystalline water as eye had never seen nor mouth tasted. It could have been the garden of eden of now fond memory, for the passing years had taken with them many a painful recollection. And yet, there was something false and artificial about that dazzling landscape, as if it were a backdrop specially prepared for some purpose quite indecipherable to someone riding a very ordinary donkey and without a Michelin guide to land.

An atheist and communist, Saramago was often at odds with the establishment. In ]The Gospel According to Jesus Christ] and [Cain] he depicts God as fallible and cruel. Nevertheless, his writing style is light and even rather humorous and it can take a bit of getting used to. For example, he doesn't use quotes or phrases like "he said" to indicate when speakers in a dialog change, rather he simply capitalizes the first letter of a new speakers contribution. In sum though the book is a quick, pleasant read with an interesting slant. **** ( )
  RebaRelishesReading | Sep 10, 2013 |
Cain by Jose Saramago is a witty and provocative satire of The Old Testament. While Cain is projected as the sympathetic human protagonist, the book projects God as vindictive character who is also likely to make miscalculations and committing unimaginable wrong doings. The book is fast, interesting and unique in tone.

Read the complete review of Cain at
http://www.thebookoutline.com/2013/08/book-review-cain-by-jose-saramago.html ( )
  theBookOutline | Aug 18, 2013 |
José Saramago won the Nobel Prize in 1998. He died in 2010, and Cain is his last novel. While it takes a bit of effort to get used to his style, his books are a lot of fun and well-worth the effort. In The Stone Raft, a geologist discovers a fissure in the Pyrenees Mountains. He returns for further investigation to find the gap has widened. Eventually, Spain and Portugal break off from Europe and float out into the Atlantic Ocean, narrowly missing the Canary Islands. Blindness is a retelling of Camus’ novel, The Plague, and All the Names involves a clerk in a registry office who becomes obsessed with a card accidentally removed from a drawer.

Cain recounts the story following the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and the murder of Abel. Marked by the Lord and condemned to wander the earth, Cain slingshots from various places and time periods to witness events in the Old Testament. He sees Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son, Isaac; he sees the remains of the Tower of Babel; he hitches a ride on Noah’s Ark; he spends some time working for Job, until his fortunes take a downturn; Cain spends some time with Joshua before the trumpets blare; and he is present when Moses comes down from the mountain. In all of these encounters, Cain questions the actions and motives of God.

At the conclusion of the novel, when Noah tries to complete the Ark on time and in budget, God sends an army of angels to assist with the construction. Cain engages them in a conversation about the Lord. The following two passages are reproduced exactly as printed to give an idea of Saramago’s style. Cain establishes a friendly bond with some of the angels, who claim, “happiness on earth was far superior to that in heaven, but the lord, of course, being a jealous god, must never know this, because if he did, such seditious thoughts would merit the severest of reprisals with no regard for the perpetrators’ angelic status” (144). He likes long sentences and he is stingy about paragraphing and capitalization.

Cain replies, "if they really thought that, once this humanity had been destroyed, the race that followed would not fall into the same errors, the same temptations, the same follies and crimes, and they answered, We are mere angels, we know little about the incomprehensible charade that you call human nature, but to be perfectly frank, we don’t see how the second experiment will be any more satisfactory than the first, which ended in the long string of miseries we see before us now, in short, in our honest opinion as angels, and considering all the evidence, we don’t believe that human beings deserve life” (144-45).

The dust jacket quotes John Updike on the author. “Saramago is a writer, like Faulkner, so confident of his resources and ultimate destination that he can bring any improbability to life.” I am in complete agreement. José Saramago’s Cain is a fun, thought-provoking, and interesting rational look at some of the best-loved stories of the Old Testament – a great place to begin exploring this amazing author. Five stars.

--Jim, 4/12/13 ( )
  rmckeown | Apr 12, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
José Saramagoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Costa, Margaret JullTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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.
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À Pilar, et c'est comme dire eau.
A Pilar, como se dissesse água
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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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"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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