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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subversive, Allegorical and Brilliant!
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."...
Published on September 5, 2011 by Elaine Campbell

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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A quick, playful read - but to what end?
"Cain" is an irreverent retelling/revisioning of several Old Testament tales. Starting in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, the story soon moves on to their progeny and the novel's namesake, Cain. It is primarily from his viewpoint that the rest of the tales are communicated. After murdering his brother, Abel, and finding temporary asylum in Nod, Cain is imbued...
Published on September 6, 2011 by K. Sullivan


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full marks from Richard Dawkins?, July 24, 2012
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cain (Kindle Edition)
Right on the opening page we know we are in for some joyous irreverence and a good deal of invention about the Bible stories. god - spelled with a lower case g - performs some extraordinary manoeuver on adam and eve (sic) because he had forgotten to endow them with speech when he created them. And adam and eve have "made the most" of their pre-Fall nudity. We learn about the origin of adam's apple.

In due course Cain says that god was as much to blame for the murder of Abel: had he not spurned Cain's sacrifice, the insufferably smug Abel would not have been killed. Besides, god could have but chose not to intervene and to prevent the murder.

The Bible tells us nothing of what happened to Cain later, except that he settled in the land of Nod, married an unnamed woman who bore him a son after whose name, Enoch, he named a city that he built. This leaves Saramago free to invent other events in Cain's life.

Some of his inventions are purely fantastical, such as making Lilith the Queen of Nod and the wife of Noah. But for the most part Saramago's fantasy is rooted in the Bible stories. In the Bible God tells Cain, "a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth", and Cain, zigzagging backwards and forwards in time, is present in many of the later places and stories in the Bible: during Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac (an episode little to god's credit); during the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel (ditto); ditto again during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt for showing curiosity; during the slaughter of the calf-worshippers at the foot of Mount Sinai; during god's vengeance on the Israelite army after the fall of Jericho because one soldier had kept plunder for himself instead of consecrating it to god, then, after the miscreant had confessed, repented and been stoned to death, seeing the Israelites rewarded with the slaughter of a further twelve thousand of their enemies. Cain was there when god, simply to win a bet, allowed Satan to impose on god's faithful servant Job every possible affliction, incidentally killing his ten innocent children and his slaves in the process. Finally (though of course not chronologically so) Cain finds himself on Noah's ark - nothing to link this Noah with the Noah who had been the wife of Lilith - and he witnesses almost the whole of humanity being drowned by a god who had realized that he hadn't done a very good job with mankind and took it out on them in revenge. At which point Saramago's wildest fantasy takes over again.

It is clear that what began as a witty jeux d'esprit turns into a still at times witty but profound and angry indictment of the god of the Old Testament, who is guilty of infinitely more violence and bloodshed than Cain, who repented of the one person he had slain. god is shown as jealous, envious, filled with vainglorious pride, despotically whimiscal, utterly unjust and totally arbitrary.

As for Samarago, he shows his own usual arbitrariness where punctuation and capitalization are concerned, and this is particularly irritating in dialogue, when the punctuation does not show who is speaking. Ask not the reason why.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very funny irreverent version of the Bible by a Nobel Prize winner, August 25, 2011
This review is from: Cain (Hardcover)
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Jose Saramago's (1922-2010) last book Cain is a delightful, frequently funny, heretical, mocking, feverishly anti-God, retelling of the early books of the Hebrew Bible. He is the 1998 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Adam and Eve's son Cain kills his bother Abel after God accepted the latter's sacrifice and ignored Cain's, despite Cain's piety. Cain was actually the child of the angel that God set in front of the Garden of Eden to prevent Adam and Eve from reentering it to gain food after God had expelled them for disobeying him. Eve granted the angel sexual favors for reentry to avoid starving.

God criticized Cain for Abel's murder and Cain, in turn, charged God with complicity; he shouldn't have shown undeserved favoritism to his brother. The two agree on a compromise of Cain's sentence based on the shared responsibility for Abel's death. Cain escapes capital punishment, but gets a disfiguring mark on his forehead and is banished to wander, like an illegal alien without a country. Contrary to what seems to be recorded in the Bible, there were other people present on earth at that time, many living in organized cities. Adam and Eve and their descendants were a special divine project, an experiment that didn't work.

Cain drifts from place to place, like a protagonist in a sci-fi movie. He finds himself in one episode after another, moved by some force, not God, who doesn't keep tract of him. The new place might be the present or the future. He is plucked back and forth, as in a roller coaster ride. He finds himself in a town called Nod where its queen takes a fancy to him and they engage in sexual escapades until the queen's husband becomes tired of the affair and embarrassed, and tries to have Cain killed.

After this adventure, Cain finds himself following Abraham on a mission to sacrifice his son Isaac, and intervenes by seizing Abraham's hand. An angel sent by God to stop Abraham arrives late due to a problem, he says, with one of his wings. Cain is then hurled back in time to watch the Tower of Babel incident, then shunted forwards in time to when God and two angels visit Abraham and Sarah and foretell Isaac's birth, followed by a slight shift to Lot's house and the destruction of Sodom, then to the Israelites' worship of the golden calf, Joshua at Jericho where contrary to reports, the sun didn't stand still, Job and his afflictions where God is complicit with Satan, and Noah and the flood.

The book is jammed with Cain's disgust at the countless murders committed by God, as at Sodom, the Tower of Babel, the golden calf, the flood, among others. Why, he wonders, was God disturbed at his single murder when he commits so many? He decides to take revenge against God.

The book is also packed with irreverent humor. For example, Cain disputes with God whether Noah's vessel containing so many animals can float. Another example is, "Among themselves, the angels were happy to acknowledge that life in heaven was the most boring thing ever invented, with the chorus of angels constantly proclaiming to the four winds the lord's greatness, generosity and even his beauty." Saramago also describes the horrendous unsanitary conditions in Noah's ark.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gods and Monsters, January 14, 2013
By 
Doginfollow (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cain (Paperback)
After enjoying several previous Saramago novels (especially "Blindness" and "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ"), I found "Cain" to be a major disappointment. The author's retelling of his New Testament source material in The Gospel was imaginative, energetic and sympathetic as well as critical. But in Cain, Saramago lapses into a lazy, monochromatic retreading of incidents from the Old Testament. Stretching Cain's brief original appearance in Genesis 4 into a hit parade of divine injustice, Saramago makes little effort to weave the tale together with artful transitions. He tosses off anachronistic asides right and left, and seems to weary of the effort required to render his scenes convincingly. While the author found plenty of nuance to explore in the gospels in his earlier work, in Cain he runs over the most densely textured stories from the Pentateuch with a steamroller of anger. To Saramago, Yahweh is a jerk, quite simply, and not a very interesting one. Cain comes off little better -- a passive, observing figure through most of the novel, stretched to fill too many narrative roles to develop much depth in them. There is plenty of latitude for irreverence here, but Saramago's reading of the material becomes too reductive and predictable to be enjoyable as literature rather than polemic. It's too bad, because Cain's brief and perplexing story should have been grist enough for a Nobelist's mill without catapulting his character Candide-like through the rest of the Tanakh.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cain begat Doubt, October 8, 2011
This review is from: Cain (Hardcover)
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If I may begin with a rant? I love Saramago. I think he's brilliant. And of course a Nobel prize winning author, therefore we all have to suffer for his art vis a vis a lack of punctuation. Seriously, I don't get this "style" nonsense with punctuation. To me it's on par with misspellings and bad grammar. I know it doesn't bother some people, but it distracts me to the degree that this 150 page book took me several weeks to finish.

That being said, great book. And worth it. But come on. Sheesh. OK, I'm done.

This is quite a sacrilegious little book, and I loved that about it. Cain is whisked by the magic of the Lord to various major events in the Old Testament and he gives his views on these events. His relationship with the Lord is quite contentious, and he's kind of always calling the Lord on his crap.

In one such case, the Lord tells Cain:

(pretend the quotes aren't here)

"...the only person I have to account to is myself, that I never have to concern myself with considerations of a personal nature, and that I am endowed, let me say this to you now, with a conscience so flexible that it agrees with whatever I do..."

Another section, Cain is shooting the breeze with God's angels while they are building Noah's Ark, and Cain asks:

"...where did the strange idea come from, that god, simply because he is god, has the right to govern the private lives of his believers, setting up rules, prohibitions, interdictions, and other such nonsense..."

One does wonder.

It's brilliant satire, and it probably deserves 5-stars, but I'm still irked about the punctuation.

If you like this book, I'd definitely recommend David Maine's The Preservationist, or Fallen.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Let's go with "interesting", March 1, 2014
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This review is from: Cain (Paperback)
While extremely humorous and a quick read, this felt like its intention was to settle a vendetta with God. Its frustrated outbursts against the Abrahamic God attack weak positions that are rarely held by anyone who has a good understanding of the Old Testament. Worth it only if one already has an understanding of the Bible, but dangerous if anyone wished to draw conclusions about religion from this without any other sources.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Cain, January 21, 2014
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This review is from: Cain (Kindle Edition)
Not finished with it as am reading 3 books at once. Not what I thought it would be. I wasn't looking for humor
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4.0 out of 5 stars New Look at An Old Question -- And A Good Read, December 7, 2013
By 
Anne Mills (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Cain (Kindle Edition)
A short novel dealing with a big subject, that being the relationship between man and God -- or more accurately western man and the Judeo-Christian God. The title identifies the protagonist: Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, and was cursed by God to be a "fugitive and wanderer". The novel traces his wanderings, through the landscape (temporal as well as physical) of the Torah. Cain is present at the destruction of the Tower of Babel, at the worshipping of the Golden Calf, at the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. etc. etc. On the occasions, Cain condemns God's behavior, in making the innocent suffer along with the guilty. God does not come off particularly well in these exchanges, while Cain seems a sort of Prometheus, an advocate of humane behavior on the part of the divine. All in all, this is an interesting take on a very old question, as well as a story that holds the reader's interest. It sent me back to my Bible (yes, those horrors really are "by the Book"). and will probably send me back to Saramago
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5.0 out of 5 stars good book, October 25, 2013
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This review is from: Cain (Paperback)
first book I've read by this author liked it and would buy other novels that he has written. thank you
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4.0 out of 5 stars Who is guilty?, October 2, 2013
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This review is from: Cain (Hardcover)
The novel starts out very energetically as Cain confronts God. The cleverness is very intriguing but the novel seems to get bogged down in being clever and thereby going nowhere beyond this cleverness. Perhaps cleverness is all that can be expected of the existential. If that is true than the novel very clearly, therefore brilliantly, establishes the nature of the human condition which is never finished, as it stumbles toward Thanatos
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not biblical...but entertaining, September 26, 2013
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This review is from: Cain (Kindle Edition)
Remember this is fiction and for entertainment purposes only. I liked it, but my husband finds it annoying because he want to compare it to the bible and not read it for it's intent. Just enjoy the book, dont make it your life. UHG
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Cain
Cain by Jose Saramago (Hardcover - October 4, 2011)
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