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The Cave Paperback – October 15, 2003
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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, Maral 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.
Top customer reviews
One of the most interesting qualities was the writing style used. I don’t think Saramago used quotation marks for dialog at all. The conversations were all within long, flowing paragraphs, and it took me a couple of pages to realize. But that technique was really satisfying and it “flowed” so well. Stream of consciousness, I suppose. Engaging and effective. Amazing writing.
Highly recommended, loved it.
Though it is hard to see as the novel opens, this quote sets the stage for everything that is to come. Deceptively simple and straightforward at the beginning, by the time I reached the end I found "The Cave" to be an immensely rewarding novel, very thought-provoking and as rich in original ideas as any of Saramago's other books.
In terms of story, "The Cave" is about an aging potter named Cipriano Algor, his daughter Marta, and her husband Marcal. Early on in the book Cipriano receives the news that the Center, where he has been selling his earthenware plates and jugs, is no longer interested in purchasing his goods. He is told that consumers now prefer plastic wares, and the work of his hands is no longer profitable. Cipriano takes this news understandably hard, but he and his daughter Marta decide to try making clay figurines to sell, an idea which the Center is willing to test. They order over a thousand of the small figurines, and suddenly Cipriano's life sems to have purpose again. As the story continues, a lost dog is found, new love begins to blossom, and a new life begins to grow.
As simple as this story seems at the beginning, I should have known better. I've read Saramago before, and I know that his stories are rich with ideas and imagination, and everything tends to mean something. In his other works, such as "Blindness" or "The Stone Raft," the big idea behind the story was posed right up front, almost from the first page. In "The Cave," the ideas of the story are under the surface until the very end, constantly present, but revealed in only tiny hints and suggestions, subtle wordplay and fragments of thought which must be assembled at the end. When we get there, despite the simplicity of the beginning, the conclusion is dramatic and inescapable...perhaps even revolutionary. It is as near to a perfect ending as any I have ever read.
While developing these ideas, Saramago keeps us interested with warm characters who we can truly understand and feel for. They have depth, charm, humor, and heart. Saramago's descriptions of their conversations are well-crafted, and he creates as much depth with what they do not say as with what they say. Nobody is simple in this story, and even the dog is important. I came to care about them, their simple life, their everyday decisions. Though it is the ideas which impressed me at the end of the book, it is the characters which made me want to continue reading.
I've said it before, reading a Saramago novel should not be a light undertaking. A summer beach novel or light bedtime reading this is not. In both style and content, Saramago's books are challenging stuff. A page or more of text can pass with no paragraph breaks, dialogue lacks the usual markers like quotation marks and line breaks, punctuation is irregular. Somehow, despite these stylistic oddities, Saramago makes it all work, and a rich story comes together from the threads he weaves. As challenging as this book may be to read, like his other novels, in the end, the result is well worth the extra effort. Like a clay pot shaped by the rough, worn hands of a master craftsman, it is a piece to be admired and treasured.
In the way Saramago has written "The Cave," he clearly wants you to care about Cipriano and Marta and Marcal and all of the characters. And if you read it, so you shall. It is only through coming to know these people, their loves and annoyances, their fears and hopes, their limitations and their triumphs, that we can understand their story and why it is important. Pay attention to these simple people and their simple lives, because as you will see, it is important. They are important.
Because they are just like us.
This novel like All the Names addresses the challenge modern man has in connecting to other human beings in a world that is becoming increasingly homogenized,the confict between city and country, and the role of women and poor in the world.
The heart of this novel is one Cipriano Algor, a potter who loses an exclusive conract with the Center. The Center is Saramago's symbol for the globalized economy as in exist today. An economy that has widenened the gulf between the rich and the poor, and where one day can bring someone from subsitence to homelessness.
But Saramago does more than attack globalization. He creates vivid, living characters who struggle with age, who experience the ecstatic joy of creating ceramic figurines, who argue and make up, who are human and wholly believable.