Synopses & Reviews
In this, his last novel, José Saramago daringly reimagines the characters and narratives of the Old Testament, recalling his provocative The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
. His tale runs from the Garden of Eden, when God realizes he has forgotten to give Adam and Eve the gift of speech, to the moment when Noah’s Ark lands on the dry peak of Ararat. Cain, the despised, the murderer, is Saramago’s protagonist.
Condemned to wander forever after he kills his brother Abel, Cain makes his way through the world in the company of a personable donkey. He is a witness to and participant in the stories of Isaac and Abraham, the destruction of the Tower of Babel, Moses and the golden calf, the trials of Job. The rapacious Queen Lilith takes him as her lover. An old man with two sheep on a rope crosses his path. And again and again, Cain encounters a God whose actions seem callous, cruel, and unjust. He confronts Him, he argues with Him. “And one thing we know for certain,” Saramago writes, “is that they continued to argue and are arguing still.”
A startling book — sensual, funny — and in all ways a fitting end to Saramago’s extraordinary career.
"Cain's vagabond journey builds to a stunning climax that, like the book itself, is a fitting capstone to a remarkable career
-Publishers Weekly, starred
"A winkingly blasphemous retelling of the Old Testament....Saramago, playfully stretching his chatty late style, pokes holes in the stated logic of the Biblical God throughout the novel." The New Yorker
"Saramago juxtaposes an eminently readable narrative of work and poverty, class and desire, knowledge and timelessness — one in which God, too, as he faces Cain in the wake of Noah's Ark, emerges as far more human than expected." San Francisco Chronicle
"With parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony, José Saramago continually enables us once again to apprehend an illusory reality." Nobel Prize committee
"Saramago is a writer, like Faulkner, so confident of his resources and ultimate destination that he can bring any improbability to life." John Updike
"José Saramago will be a permanent part of the Western canon....In all of his wonderful meditations upon the ruefulness of our lives, there is always the spirit of laughter beckoning us in the art of somehow going on. His achievement is one of the enlargements of life." Harold Bloom
"He got ahead of us; he is ahead of us. His work belongs to our future." Ursula K. Le Guin
Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago's last novel: a radical re-telling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel
In this, his last novel, Jose Saramago daringly reimagines the characters and narratives of the Bible through the story of Cain. Condemned to wander forever after he kills Abel, Cain 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, Jobs 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, Cain is in all ways a fitting end to Saramago's extraordinary career.
About the Author
José Saramago (1922-2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda,
and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis.
In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Margaret Jull Costa has established herself as the premier translator of Portuguese literature into English today.