Cain

Jose Saramago, Author, Margaret Jull Costa, Translator
Jos%C3%A9 Saramago, trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (160p) ISBN 978-0-547-41989-3
Reviewed on: 07/25/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Paperback - 189 pages - 978-607-11-0316-1
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Hardcover - 191 pages - 978-1-61173-260-3
Paperback - 159 pages - 978-0-547-84017-8
Open Ebook - 176 pages - 978-0-547-51940-1
Hardcover - 150 pages - 978-1-84655-446-9
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With breathtaking imagination, acclaimed Portuguese author Saramago (1922-2010), winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, revels in biblical themes for his final novel. When Cain, the first-born son of Adam and Eve, murders his brother in rebellion against God, God shares in the guilt ("you gods should...take the blame for all the crimes committed in your name," Cain argues) and makes Cain "a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth." Cain's travels across a barren landscape lead him to a lusty tryst with Lilith and the witnessing, or altering, of many key events of the Old Testament (the building of the Tower of Babel; the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah). God appears often and is defined less by his perfection than his faults; He is morally ambiguous, "can't bear to see anyone happy," and doesn't understand his powerlessness in preventing Cain's meddling. Rounding out the narrative are angels who circumvent God's will, visions of the urban modernity that the future holds, an ironic description of Darwinian evolution, and God himself touting the heliocentric theory that will cause something of a ruckus five centuries on. Cain's vagabond journey builds to a stunning climax that, like the book itself, is a fitting capstone to a remarkable career. (Oct. 6)
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