The Elephant's Journey

José Saramago, trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-547-35258-9
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. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/12/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Show other formats
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-1-84655-360-8
Paperback - 197 pages - 978-0-09-954688-7
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-987-04-1169-7
Paperback - 205 pages - 978-0-547-57411-0
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4070-9234-8
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-547-50439-1
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-89612-3
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.