Synopses & Reviews
In the last days of Salazar's dictatorship, H., a second-rate artist, is commissioned by a wealthy client, S., to paint his portrait. H. begins to work, but he has conflicted feelings about doing yet another flattering, bland depiction. He resents his client's success and confidence, he envies him and is fascinated by him. In frustration, H. starts a second, secret version of the portrait, painted to adhere to his own developing ideas of art and truth. But this portrait too begins to seem like a failure. He then turns to writing, hoping that its very different nature will allow him to achieve an accurate depiction of S. and will also somehow clarify and free him from his obsession with the man. But writing leads H. back to himself, to his chilly relationships with his lover, Adelina, and his small group of friends, and to his engagement with great art of the past. Only when his friend Antonio is arrested and he meets M., Antonio's sister, a political organizer working toward the toppling of the regime, does H.'s confusion lift. Suddenly it is clear to him how and what he wants to paint. A novel about intellectual and political struggle that presages the development of Saramago's celebrated style, The Manual of Painting and Calligraphy has the power of Rilke's famous lines on an "Archaic Torso of Apollo": "For here there is no place/ that does not see you. You must change your life."
"After publication of the late Nobel Prize winner's final novel, Cain, along comes the first English-language translation of his first book. The first-person narrative centers on H., a disgruntled artist who paints flattering yet vapid portraits for wealthy clients while living in 1970s Portugal. H. has a circle of friends that he rarely sees, and midway through the book, his girlfriend breaks up with him. Increasingly alienated and dissatisfied with his painting, H. turns to writing. While he claims that 'life is extremely simple,' H. tends to overthink things and sees himself in everything. The question becomes, will H. find a way to reconcile his art, writing, and philosophy with his relationship to people? Themes that flourish in Saramago's later work including leftist politics and alternative histories of Christianity are also present in H.'s diatribes. Saramago's novel succeeds as a meditation on the writing process and a philosophical look at fiction and reality for Saramago devotees, this is an insightful and meaningful work. Agent: Nicole Witt, Literarische Agentur Mertin." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"For a first novel, though, this work displays a masterly grasp of wordplay and other literary devices, and as the translator points out, it can also serve as a map to the political and social themes of Saramagos future novels."
"Calvino is a supreme storyteller, writing with ease and transparency that make the reader a confidante." --Publishers Weekly
"It would be hard to more highly recommend a novel to be downed in a single draft…Simply, this books flows, and keeps on flowing."
--The New York Times
"His most optimistic, playful, humorous and magical book, a grace note written near the end of his life...The Elephant's Journey is a tale rich in irony and empathy, regularly interrupted by witty reflections on human nature and arch commentary on the powerful who insult human dignity."
-- Los Angeles Times
"Saramago...spun this whimsical yet compulsively readable tale...it's a perfect example of why [he] will be remembered as a master of surreal, enchanting prose."
"A picaresque romp that gleefully skewers the benighted souls clinging to outmoded worldviews while breathtaking new realities unfold right in front of them."
-- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
An early example of Saramago's mastery, this novel takes us into the last days of Salazar's dictatorship when a second-rate artist is commissioned by a wealthy client to paint a portrait and the political and intellectual struggles that ensue.
Manual of Painting and Calligraphy was José Saramago’s first novel. Written eight years before the critically acclaimed Baltasar and Blimunda, it is a story of self-discovery set against the background of the last years of Salazar’s dictatorship. A struggling young artist, commissioned to paint a portrait of an influential industrialist, learns in the process about himself and the world around him. The brilliant juxtaposition of a passionate love story and the crisis of a nation foreshadows all of Saramago’s major works. A must-have for any devotee of the great Portuguese Nobel laureate, Manual of Painting and Calligraphy is available in the United States for the first time.
Appearing here in its first English translation, Into the War contains three stories drawing on Italo Calvino's memories of the Second World War in Italy.
“This book deals both with a transition from adolescence into youth and with a move from peace to war: as for very many other people, for the protagonist of this book ‘entry into life’ and ‘entry into war’ coincide.” — from the Author’s Note
These three stories, set during the summer of 1940, draw on Italo Calvino’s memories of his own adolescence during the Second World War, too young to be forced to fight in Mussolini’s army but old enough to be conscripted into the Italian youth brigades. The callow narrator of these tales observes the mounting unease of a city girding itself for war, the looting of an occupied French town, and nighttime revels during a blackout. Appearing here in its first English translation, Into the War is one of Calvino’s only works of autobiographical fiction. It offers both a glimpse of this writer’s extraordinary life and a distilled dram of his wry, ingenious literary voice.
“All three stories attest to the potentially magical, transformative space of adolescence . . . The seeds of the later Calvino — the fabulist who worked profound moral and ethical points into his narratives — are all here.” — Joseph Luzzi, Times Literary Supplement
The tale of an elephant named Solomon who travels through sixteenth century Europe, from Lisbon to Vienna.
A delightful, witty tale of friendship and adventure from prize-winning novelist José Saramago
In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. In José Saramago's remarkable and imaginative retelling, 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, these unlikely heroes traverse a continent riven by the Reformation and civil wars, witnessed along the way by scholars, historians, and wide-eyed ordinary people as they make their way through the storied cities of northern Italy; they brave the Alps and the terrifying Isarco and Brenner Passes; across the Mediterranean Sea and up the Inn River; and at last, toward their grand entry into the imperial city.
About the Author
ITALO CALVINO’s superb storytelling gifts earned him international renown and a reputation as “one of the world's best fabulists” (New York Times Book Review). He is the author of numerous works of fiction, as well as essays, criticism, and literary anthologies. Born in Cuba in 1923, Calvino was raised in Italy, where he lived most of his life. At the time of his death, in Siena in 1985, he was the most translated contemporary Italian writer.