Synopses & Reviews
“Suitably disturbing—and a pleasure to read.” — The Scotsman
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 Noahs Ark lands on the dry peak of Ararat. Cain, the despised, the murderer, is Saramagos 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—in all ways a fitting end to Saramagos extraordinary career.
"This gospel retelling is relatively faithful in style, time line, and events to the four canonical gospels-though Pullman injects a very Pullman-like spin on it by splitting Jesus Christ into two men, among other creative twists. Twin babies are born of the virgin Mary, one called Jesus, the other Christ. After a childhood in which Christ is a goody-goody and Jesus the popular one, Jesus and Christ continue down separate but intertwined paths, with Christ sneaking around, spying on Jesus's ministry and writing down his every word and deed. Jesus becomes a philosopher-revolutionary and Christ is the politically savvy brother, who ultimately proves naïve. Pullman's gospel version reveals how the politics and structure of the institutional church were plotted by power-hungry men, who used the renown of Jesus and his well-meaning, devoted brother Christ as pawns in their corrupt game-a critique that will be familiar to readers of His Dark Materials. This is a tale of (almost comedic) mistaken identity and good intentions gone horribly awry. Readers will find the parables, the Good Samaritan, healings, and the Sermon on the Mount, among other familiar scenes." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
“Incendiary . . . A small gem or, given its explosive story and exquisite artistry, a hand grenade made by Faberge. Pullman is a craftsman of the highest order.” Sunday Times
“Provokingly bold . . . Pullmans rebel scripture belongs in a strong tradition of its own.” The Independent
“Pullman is a supreme storyteller who . . . has done the story [of the Gospels] a service by reminding us of its extraordinary power to provoke and disturb.” The Telegraph
“A wonderfully fresh reworking of the Gospel stories [concerned with] extricating what is ethically beautiful and of permanent value in Jesus's teachings from the religious institutions that fallibly mediate and self-servingly distort them.. . . . Pullmans imaginative and highly thought-provoking innovation . . . is told with a self-effacing, yet incisive limpidity. . . . [The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is] a work of genuine discretion — deeply involved and involving, but with a great instinct for what to leave tacit.” The Independent
“A simple, powerful, knowing little book . . . Like a small grenade, it will ricochet uncomfortably around the mind of any Christian believer for some time to come.” Financial Times
“[The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is] Pullman at his very best, limpid and economical. . . . Pullman leaves the Christian reader with a genuine paradox to ponder.” The Guardian
“Told in simple, unadorned prose that is nonetheless beautifully effective, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ traces the familiar journey toward the cross and makes it fresh. . . . Pullman's retelling of the central story in western civilization provides a brilliant new interpretation that is also a thought-provoking reflection on the process of how stories come into existence and accrue their meanings.” Sunday Times
"From the author and title, I expected The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
to be a lot more inflammatory. Pullman never questions the sincerity of Jesus, though. Even Christ is a basically decent chap, seeking to ensure his brother isn't forgotten. As in His Dark Materials, religion is the scoundrel seeking to mask reality with 'truth that will make everything true.' Due to the layout of the chapters The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a quick read — I read it in an afternoon." Doug Brown, Powells.com
(Read the entire Powells.com review
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
is the remarkable new piece of fiction from best-selling and famously atheistic author Philip Pullman.
By challenging the events of the gospels, Pullman puts forward his own compelling and plausible version of the life of Jesus, and in so doing, does what all great books do: makes the reader ask questions.
In Pullmans own words, "The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories."
This is a story. In this ingenious and spell-binding retelling of the life of Jesus, Philip Pullman revisits the most influential story ever told. Charged with mystery, compassion and enormous power, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ throws fresh light on who Jesus was and asks the reader questions that will continue to resonate long after the final page is turned. For, above all, this book is about how stories become stories.
The late Nobel laureates final novel, a radical retelling of the Old Testament "Reading the Portuguese writer José Saramago, one quickly senses the presence of a master." Christian Science Monitor "Saramago is the most tender of writers...with a clear-eyed and compassionate acknowledgment of things as they are, and a quality that can only be termed wisdom." New York Times "Saramago is arguably the greatest writer of our time."Chicago Tribune 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, Jobs ordeal, and finally Noahs 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 Saramagos extraordinary career.
A re-telling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel
About the Author
Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England in 1946 and grew up in Zimbabwe and Wales. He worked as a teacher for many years and his first children’s novel, Count Karlstein
, came out in 1982. The Ruby in the Smoke
, the first of the Sally Lockhart quartet of Victorian thrillers, was published in 1985.
He has won many awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Book Award, the Smarties Prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and a CBE. His acclaimed trilogy, His Dark Materials, has been published in 39 languages, and was the subject of a hugely successful adaptation at the National Theatre in 2003-4 and 2004-5. Once Upon a Time in the North was published in April 2008. Philip Pullman lives in Oxford with his wife, and has two sons.