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The Cave Paperback – October 15, 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

José Saramago is a master at pacing. Readers unfamiliar with the work of this Portuguese Nobel Prize winner would do well to begin with The Cave, a novel of ideas, shaded with suspense. Spare and pensive, The Cave follows the fortunes of an aging potter, Cipriano Algor, beginning with his weekly delivery of plates to the Center, a high-walled, windowless shopping complex, residential community, and nerve center that dominates the region. What sells at the Center will sell everywhere else, and what the Center rejects can barely be given away in the surrounding towns and villages. The news for Cipriano that morning isn't good. Half of his regular pottery shipment is rejected, and he is told that the consumers now prefer plastic tableware. Over the next week, he and his grown daughter Marta grieve for their lost craft, but they gradually open their eyes to the strange bounty of their new condition: a stray dog adopts them, and a lovely widow enters Cipriano's life. When they are invited to live at the Center, it seems ungracious to refuse, but there are strange developments under the complex and a troubling increase in security, and Cipriano changes all their fates by deciding to investigate. In Saramago's able hands, what might have become a dry social allegory is a delicately elaborated story of individualism and unexpected love. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The struggle of the individual against bureaucracy and anonymity is one of the great subjects of modern literature, and Saramago is often matched with Kafka as one of its premier exponents. Apt as the comparison is, it doesn't convey the warmth and rueful human dimension of novels like Blindness and All the Names. Those qualities are particularly evident in his latest brilliant, dark allegory, which links the encroaching sterility of modern life to the parable of Plato's cave. Widowed Cipriano Algor is a 64-year-old Portuguese potter who finds his business collapsing when the demand dries up for his elegant, handcrafted wares. His potential fate seems worse than poverty-to move with his daughter, Marta, and his son-in-law, Mar‡al Gacho, into a huge, arid complex known as "The Center," where Gacho works as a security guard. But Algor gets an order from the Center for hundreds of small ceramic figurines, a task that has Marta and Algor hustling to meet the delivery date. Saramago's flowing, luminous prose (beautifully translated by Costa) serves him well in the early going as he portrays the intricacies of Algor's artistic life and the beginning of his friendship with a widow he meets at the cemetery. The middle chapters bog down as the author lingers over the process of creating the dolls and the family's ongoing debate over Algor's future. But Saramago makes up for the brief slow stretch with a stunning ending after the doll project crashes, when Algor becomes a resident of the Center and finds a shocking surprise in a cave unearthed beneath it. The characters are as finely crafted as Algor's pottery, and Saramago deserves special kudos for his one-dog canine chorus, a stray mutt named Found that Algor adopts as his emotional sounding board. Saramago has an extraordinary ability to make a complex narrative read like a simple parable. This remarkably generous and eloquent novel is another landmark work from an 80-year-old literary giant who remains at the height of his powers.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (October 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156028794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156028790
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In this metaphysical and surrealistic novel, Saramago transforms Plato's Allegory of the Cave into a contemporary novel about Cipriano Algor, a man in his sixties who lives in a small village, where he practices his trade as a potter. Living in tune with nature as he digs clay from the earth, works it with his hands, and fires it in an old, family-owned kiln, Cipriano suddenly finds himself without a livelihood when a mysterious and all-powerful Center rejects his real pottery in favor of longer-lasting plastic. And when Cipriano's real life in his small village is also sacrificed for a totally controlled life in an apartment in the Center, Saramago vividly illustrates how the shadows of artificial things are often mistaken for reality in contemporary society, which does not favor "inquisitive ones," searching for life's essence.
Despite the novel's allegorical structure and didactic message, Saramago creates warm characters who inspire the belief that the good, kind, and sensitive souls of the world can survive, and perhaps triumph on some level. Love and family matter here, despite Cipriano's belief that he is "merely the largest of the bits of clay [in the yard], a small dry clod that will crumble with the slightest pressure." Though he is a molder of clay, he recognizes that there are also forces being exerted on him.
Filled with meditations on literature, reading, the creative process, experimentation, and individuality, the novel is both intellectually exciting and very challenging. Unfortunately, Saramago's style is more daunting than his message. Omitting all quotation marks, question marks, and the conventions of paragraphing and sentence structure, he challenges the reader to distill the reality of his message from the shadows of his style.
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Format: Hardcover
Jose Saramago is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I consider his novel Blindness to be one of the best novels I've read in the past five years. The Cave only continues the growth of my respect for him.
I often find when I read one of Saramago's novels that I am reminded of other authors I enjoy. Blindness reminds me of The Plague by Camus and The Cave reminds me of The Castle by Kafka. I don't know if this is Saramago's intention. Perhaps I am reading too much into things. But Saramago is not writing lesser version of old stories. He always has a unique take and, if anything, his stories are more accessible.
In The Cave there are two key locations--the village where the main character, Cipriano Algor, works in his traditional pottery, and The Center. The Center is an ultra-modern complex of living and shopping whose residents never need to leave. Even though most of the action takes place at the village, it is The Center that is the focus of the majority of attention. It dominates the landscape both literally and figuratively. Cipriano sells his wares there and has no control over if and what the bureaucrats of The Center will buy. When his dishes are no longer wanted, he tries to sell ceramic dolls. When these are not a success, he moves to The Center with his daughter and son-in-law but, after an eerie discovery, they leave The Center forever.
And yet, Saramago is not creating an allegory of traditional vs. modern. He is telling the story of people. In his unique style of long paragraphs with little punctuation, he creates a number of very vivid characters--not only Cipriano but also his daughter, Marta; son-in-law, Marcal; and the widow, Isaura. Even the dog, Found, is a brilliant creation with a will of his own.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This one is different. First, there's the writing style. Forget punctuation. Forget paragraphs. Forget chapter headings. Saramago's prose comes at you like packets of bits and bytes down a fiber pipe. Think Rushdie on steroids. Next, there's Algor Cipriano, the potter. Our introduction to him begins with Algor's ramblings; some are spoken; others are not. His thoughts mold our view of Algor. He is 64, widowed, with a married daughter. He is independent, hard working, loyal and noble. He is a man you can like. But, Algor's worker peasant ways are the old ways. More and more people are moving to high rises in the New Town. The swank population there prefers mass produced items over hand-made pottery. Algor is rapidly becoming obsolete, useless, old. He has two choices: retire to the New Town where he can live in a tiny apartment with his daughter and son-in-law or re-mold himself into something more marketable. His struggle is profoundly moving. He knows that he must change, keep up with modern times, but wait. Wait. As he gets a closer look at the new town Center, he is convinced that the new way is false. It's a trap. Why would anyone want to live in a high-rise cubit---a cave---even if it does have 500 cable channels, a slick Micro-wave oven, simulated rain forest, and an indoor ski jump? The new town residents, in Algor's estimation, are not seeing reality. They are dupes, consumed by consumerism. The Cave is not a pretty tale, but it is one where you'll enjoy the spelunking.
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By A Customer on June 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
I would just like to comment on one or two aspects of Saramago's The Cave, which I adored. I had just read Blindness--a brilliant book, certainly, but so bleak and cruel (in these cruel times, when the news constantly comments on brutal rapes, torture and inhumanity, the bleakness was even more hard to take!) so I was a bit hesitant to read The Cave. However, as a ceramist and teacher of ceramics history, I was completely enchanted by the detailed descriptions of the workings of the old pottery. Saramago truly understands the work of country or small-scale potteries. The fact that the once-common product of small-scale manufacturers has all-but disappeared from our lives contributes, no doubt, to the confusion that met many readers (perhaps they are like the consumers in The Centre, who preferred plastic to hand made earthenware?) Ceramics, clay and pottery are used throughout as metaphors--as strong as any other metaphors and as legitimate. Even if you do not understand or find interesting all of the details on pottery production, the sensitivity with which the emotional lives of the family members are described is incredibly tender and engaging. I found no difficulty with the style--it was very easy to fall into and follow, if you responded to the emotional states of the characters. And, for me, one of the best parts of all was the luminous dog, Found, whose thoughts and unconditional love provided humour and a very positive aspect of the book (countering the bleakness of Blindness.) Some readers did not like the diversions, but I found them wonderful--the use of language, the multiple ideas played with by the author made reading the book more like having a rich conversation with a closer friend. I loved it!
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