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Cain Hardcover – October 4, 2011

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Cain + The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547419899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547419893
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: In his final slim novel, the late José Saramago gives a cheeky modernist update to a timeworn biblical tale. After killing his brother Abel in an exasperated rage, Cain makes a deal with a CEO-like God and escapes with little more than a donkey and a few snacks, doomed to nomadic immortality. As he wanders through time and space, the handsome itinerant interferes with the dealings of a familiar cast of characters--Noah, Moses, Isaac--forever altering the course of legend along the way. Deeply flawed and all too human, despite the eternal life granted him, Cain also struggles openly with the idea of faith in the face of an equally flawed God. By turns philosophical and hilarious, Cain shows off the scope of Saramago’s talent and makes a fitting coda for a superlative writing life. --Mia Lipman


"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

More About the Author

JOSE SARAMAGO is one of the most acclaimed writers in the world today. He is the author of numerous novels, including All the Names, Blindness, and The Cave. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Customer Reviews

Good translation and a good book to re read.
Nona Leadiaz
I almost felt like the book was written just because of the author's beliefs, not because there was truly a story there that wanted to shared.
Biblioholic Beth
One of the beauties of this book is how Saramago never answers the questions he raises through Cain or events in the story.
J. Avellanet

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Campbell on September 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This tour de force has got to be the most radically different kind of book since the creation of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (most likely a brother in spirit). This work, though, is more readable despite its encompassing stylistic forays into the no-no's of grammar and punctuation. What I'm saying is "Hold onto your hats, you've never read anything like it."

cain is the protagonist (and I purposely do not capitalize his name as no names are capitalized in the world of Jose Saramago, at least not in this story) and it is to be remembered that cain's extraordinary journey through the world of the Old Testament is pre-Biblical. He has no points of reference (no footnotes, no exegeses, no internet commentaries) but his own direct reactive experiences to the events he witnesses by some mysterious decree (even God is puzzled by its source).

And what events he witnesses (and even plays a main role in some of them)! After killing his brother, something which he never ceases to regret, God sentences him to wander the earth (a la the ocean's Flying Dutchman, but without any seven years' chance of redemption, however slim), and in his peregrinations he meets up with no less than Abraham, Joshua, Noah and witnesses the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, among other catastrophic events. Let's face it. He doesn't think much of God, and doesn't mind telling him so. God's opinion of cain is mutual. The unresolvedness of this shared state is at the heart of this story. And their differences of opinion perpetuate to this day.

Certainly the fact that Saramago was an atheist and a libertarian communist colored his weltanschauung. When the Portuguese government censored his book The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, he relocated from his native country to the Canary Islands.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jose Saramago , it is safe to say, does not have much use for the god of the Old Testament. In his final novel, where there are no upper-case letters except for the words that start a sentence, he takes the reader on a journey with Cain after he was punished by God to be a wanderer and roam the earth after he killed his brother Abel. Through what the narrator calls "time travelling shifts," Cain is able to be a witness to and often a participant in some of the other events of the Old Testament: the Isaac and Abraham story, the Tower of Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Joshua at Jericho, the plight of Job and Noah's ark and the Flood.

Saramago with wit and sarcasm fleshes out the Old Testament stories. He reminds the reader that the term "Adam's apple" came about because Mr. Adam got a piece of the forbidden fruit lodged in his throat , the fruit given to him by the "first lady." The narrator declares that "the lord showed a lamentable lack of foresight, because if he really didn't want them to eat that fruit, it would have been easy enough simply not to have planted the tree or to have put it somewhere else or surrounded it with barbed wire."

People at the Tower of Babel, "without the aid of dictionaries or interpreters" are speaking in a confusing number of languages including, "who would have thought it, in portuguese," a nice touch on the part of the author. But he shines in his take on Noah and the Flood. The worker angels, whose task it is to get the ark afloat, relate to Cain just how boring heaven is with all the angels proclaiming the Lord's greatness. "It's high time that these. . . began to experience the simple joys of ordinary people.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Gibert on October 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
What do you get when the Book of Genesis mates with everyone's favorite time-traveller, Doctor Who? It's a riddle with many answers, and mine is CAIN.

CAIN narrates the life of the eponymous Biblical persona, beginning with his parents: Adam and Eve have their falling-out with God and begin to make their way in a dusty, sinful world. The author has his fun with this classic story, teasing out the absurdity and emphasizing Adam and Eve's humanity. Adam and Eve wink saucily at each other when God clothes them because, duh, how could they NOT see their nudity?

But nude there were and nude they will be, and Cain and Abel will be born and one of them will die. After Cain slices his brother's throat, God curses him to wander the earth forever. This is where Saramago's talent and his own bitter feelings for the Biblical narrative begin to shine through Cain's wanderings and witnessings. Oh, and this is where it gets a little like Doctor Who.

Cain wanders in and out of the Book of Genesis, in and out of time, and in and out of the lives of our most beloved Biblical stories: Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son; the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; the Tower of Babel; Noah's ark. Saramago takes the stories we've sung for generations and shows them through Cain's eyes. And what does Cain see? An untrustworthy, confusing, and destructive God who punishes good as evil and wagers with Satan (poor Job scrapes at the wounds on his body with a potsherd).

It is God as Saramago sees Him, and it is terrifying. So Saramago retells the stories as a reasonable, conscientious human might interpret them. He takes great advantage of all the seemingly impossible bits of the Biblical story.
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