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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

The Elephant's Journey

by

The Elephant's Journey Cover

ISBN13: 9780547352589
ISBN10: 0547352581
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

Only 1 left in stock at $8.95!

 

Staff Pick

One doesn't ordinarily associate José Saramago (Blindness) with fun, engaging romps — but that's just what the great author delivers in this charming tale of an elephant named Solomon who was gifted to the Austrian Archduke Maximilian by Portugal's King João III in the 16th century. An unforgettable adventure awaits!
Recommended by Hank, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"Shortly after he began writing The Elephant's Journey in 2007, Jose Saramago was stricken with pneumonia and would conclude the year hospitalized in Lanzarote with complications. A mere one day after his discharge the following January, he resumed work on the novel, completing it in August 2008. Hence the book's dedication: "For Pilar, who wouldn't let me die," a tribute to his wife (and translator of his works into Spanish). Saramago would go on to finish another novel (Cain, to be published in English in 2011) before he passed away on the cusp of summer earlier this year at the age of 87." Jeremy Garber, Powells.com (Read the entire Powells.com review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. The elephant's journey from Lisbon to Vienna was witnessed and remarked upon by scholars, historians, and ordinary people. Out of this material, José Saramago has spun a novel already heralded as “a triumph of language, imagination, and humor” (El País).

Solomon and his keeper, Subhro, begin in dismal conditions, forgotten in a corner of the palace grounds. When it occurs to the king and queen that an elephant would be an appropriate wedding gift, everyone rushes to get them ready: Subhro is given two new suits of clothes and Solomon a long overdue scrub.

Accompanied by the Archduke, his new wife, and the royal guard, our unlikely heroes traverse a continent riven by the Reformation and civil wars. They make their way through the storied cities of northern Italy: Genoa, Piacenza, Mantua, Verona, Venice, and Trento, where the Council of Trent is in session. They brave the Alps and the terrifying Isarco and Brenner Passes; they sail across the Mediterranean Sea and up the Inn River (elephants, it turns out, are natural sailors). At last they make their grand entry into the imperial city. The Elephant's Journey is a delightful, witty tale of friendship and adventure.

Review:

"This charming tale of an elephant given by the 16th-century Portuguese king João III to the Archduke of Austria has much to recommend it, despite its being a minor work from the late Nobel laureate. Setting off with the elephant from Lisbon, the elephant's Indian keeper becomes unlikely friends with an army commander on the sun-scorched road to Valladolid, where the archduke awaits. The group encounters an Iberian peninsula in the intermediate stages of state formation and in the clutches of the Inquisition, as well as villages full of people delighted and frightened by the legendary beast. Saramago skillfully evokes the era with period detail and the clashing cultures of the Iberians and the Ottomans, yet his attempts to imbue this pleasant yarn with heft fall short. In particular, his deliberate use of anachronisms and his frequent lapses into a coy, first-person-plural feel out of place, while his forays into the Hindu religion and folktales read largely ornamental. By Saramago (Blindness) standards, this is a fun if unlikely jaunt." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"[An] extremely amusing, historically resonant, fablelike, and technically challenging narrative." (Starred Review) Booklist

Synopsis:

In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. The elephant's journey from Lisbon to Vienna was witnessed and remarked upon by scholars, historians, and ordinary people--and serves as the foundation for this witty tale of friendship and adventure.

Synopsis:

The tale of an elephant named Solomon who travels through sixteenth century Europe, from Lisbon to Vienna.

About the Author

José Saramago was born in 1922. He is the author of numerous novels, including Blindness, All the Names, The Cave, and Death with Interruptions. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

BruceL, January 5, 2011 (view all comments by BruceL)
A "Briefly Noted" review in the New Yorker led me to this warm, witty, and wise book and--more importantly-- to the world of Jose Saramago. It's a well-told story by a writer very comfortable (but not complacent) in his craft. There are sentences on every page that will make you pause and savor a turn of phrase, a pithy observation, a new way of seeing. Be warned--if this is your first Saramago, you'll read no one else until you've read everything he's written.
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LynneP, September 14, 2010 (view all comments by LynneP)
Men have been many things over the years -- ignorant, greedy, forgetful, inconstant, loyal, intelligent, hard-working and inspired. To the fortunate, their companions have been animals. When that happens, animal companions represent the best of these qualities that mankind wishes or believes it displays.

Such is the case with the quiet, stolid Indian elephant Solomon in Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago's last novel, The Elephant's Journey. Saramago, who died this summer, took the true tale of an elephant that was regifted from King João III of Portugal to Archduke Maximilian as a wedding present in 1551, and turned it into a rambling fable of small acts and, when least expected, large emotions.

Solomon has been left, forgotten and dirtier by the day, in Lisbon after he and his mahout Subhro became the king of Portugal's property. The king suddenly remembers Solomon and decides he would make a boffo wedding gift to the archduke, whose good side he wants to stay on. Like Dorothy and her friends getting spiffed up before meeting the wizard, Solomon and Subhro are cleaned up and sent on their way with a large entourage.

While making slow progress across the Portugese countryside, Subhro and the military leader in charge of the contingent go from uneasy working partners to genuine friends. In the low-key, half sardonic, half old wise grandfatherly way that Saramago tells the story, the friendship has been formed without overt signs pointing to it. But when it's mentioned as they part, it makes complete sense.

Not much seemingly happens until that point but Saramago lays the foundation for what will be in the first half of his story. Then the Portugese army contigent and military hotshot Austrian horse guard nearly battle over who will have the honor of escorting Solomon on the rest of his journey. This is when Saramago's asides and ramblings that shape the narrative show their worth, because what happens may not matter to the reader as much as what the events bring to the narrator's mind.

And then Solomon bids goodbye to those who will not accompany him farther along his way. Simple, touching and utterly enchanting. Because Saramago has written the novel in a rambling fable style overlaid with the sweetest hint of fairy tale magic, this is where many readers will fall completely in love with this elephant and his story.

When the archduke meets his gift, the first thing this bossy royal does is change the names of the elephant and his mahout. Subhro's musing on this turn of events conveys more about the nature of wealth and power that many large volumes. The commentary on power continues when Subhro is tricked into granting the request of a village priest met along the way, and how Solomon plays his role. It's all to do with trying to score a public relations victory over that irksome Martin Luther for the church, and all to do with how a servant knows his place.

The name change and priest's request are part of a whole, considering the archduke changes the elephant's name from Solomon, wise king of the Old Testament, to Suleiman, the magnificent sultan of the Ottoman Empire. To have the sultan bowing before the church, and for it to not be a triumph, is all Saramago needs to say about worth of those who command, rather than earn, fealty.

Combine the priest's request with Solomon's earlier farewell, and then the understated story of his entry into Vienna and a little girl is all the sweeter.

When the contigent meets the Italian Alps, the journey truly becomes epic. This involves great heart and courage. It makes the ending all the more poignant.

The Elephant's Journey is not told in a straight-forward style. Its events and characters are described by a know-it-all, rambling storyteller who wasn't even there. Don't expect traditional punctuation. Saramago doesn't even worry about capitalization on occasion. The result is a read that propels itself forward, taking note of what the story's voice relates rather than the conventions of storytelling, and with it a willingness to let one's own mind wander and wonder about what's really important. What comes through is the power of friendship and the strength of loyalty.

Solomon's story is both a trifle and a parable, a fable and a legend. It's a lovely way for Saramago to say goodbye.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780547352589
Author:
Saramago, Jose
Publisher:
Mariner Books
Translator:
Costa, Margaret Jull
Author:
Costa, Margaret Jull
Author:
&
Author:
Jos
Author:
Saramago
Author:
Saramago, Jos
Author:
eacute
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Elephants
Subject:
Kings, queens, rulers, etc.
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20110511
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Language:
English
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 0.5 lb

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Nobel Prize Winners
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Elephant's Journey Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 224 pages Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) - English 9780547352589 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

One doesn't ordinarily associate José Saramago (Blindness) with fun, engaging romps — but that's just what the great author delivers in this charming tale of an elephant named Solomon who was gifted to the Austrian Archduke Maximilian by Portugal's King João III in the 16th century. An unforgettable adventure awaits!

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This charming tale of an elephant given by the 16th-century Portuguese king João III to the Archduke of Austria has much to recommend it, despite its being a minor work from the late Nobel laureate. Setting off with the elephant from Lisbon, the elephant's Indian keeper becomes unlikely friends with an army commander on the sun-scorched road to Valladolid, where the archduke awaits. The group encounters an Iberian peninsula in the intermediate stages of state formation and in the clutches of the Inquisition, as well as villages full of people delighted and frightened by the legendary beast. Saramago skillfully evokes the era with period detail and the clashing cultures of the Iberians and the Ottomans, yet his attempts to imbue this pleasant yarn with heft fall short. In particular, his deliberate use of anachronisms and his frequent lapses into a coy, first-person-plural feel out of place, while his forays into the Hindu religion and folktales read largely ornamental. By Saramago (Blindness) standards, this is a fun if unlikely jaunt." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review A Day" by , "Shortly after he began writing The Elephant's Journey in 2007, Jose Saramago was stricken with pneumonia and would conclude the year hospitalized in Lanzarote with complications. A mere one day after his discharge the following January, he resumed work on the novel, completing it in August 2008. Hence the book's dedication: "For Pilar, who wouldn't let me die," a tribute to his wife (and translator of his works into Spanish). Saramago would go on to finish another novel (Cain, to be published in English in 2011) before he passed away on the cusp of summer earlier this year at the age of 87." (Read the entire Powells.com review)
"Review" by , "[An] extremely amusing, historically resonant, fablelike, and technically challenging narrative." (Starred Review)
"Synopsis" by , In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. The elephant's journey from Lisbon to Vienna was witnessed and remarked upon by scholars, historians, and ordinary people--and serves as the foundation for this witty tale of friendship and adventure.
"Synopsis" by ,
The tale of an elephant named Solomon who travels through sixteenth century Europe, from Lisbon to Vienna.
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