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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
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The Elephant's Journey Hardcover – September 8, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The internationally respected Portuguese winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature died on June 18, 2010; this novel is being published posthumously. A novel with a greatly heroic main character certainly is not uncommon; however, when an elephant is playing that role, the novel can be considered unique, especially because it is based on an actual event. In 1551, King Joao of Portugal makes a startling diplomatic move by giving Archduke Maximilian of Austria the elephant housed on Portuguese royal grounds. The problem is that the elephant needs to be transported from Lisbon to Vienna. Because the era is pre–jumbo jet and Vienna is not a seaport, Solomon the elephant must walk! Solomon’s trek across Europe, across mountains and rivers, accompanied by his Hindu keeper and a host of other retainers and attendants, is followed in this extremely amusing, historically resonant, fablelike, and technically challenging narrative. The astonishment that Solomon arouses en route is summed up in one person’s reaction: “Well, it isn’t every day that an elephant appears in our lives.” Solomon shows quiet heroism yet is never anthropomorphized: “Despite his poor sight, he shot them a stern glance, making it clear that he was not some fairground animal, but an honest worker who had been deprived of his job by unfortunate circumstances too complicated to go into, and had, so to speak, been forced to accept public charity.” --Brad Hooper


"It would be hard to more highly recommend a novel to be downed in a single draft…Simply, this books flows, and keeps on flowing."
--The New York Times

"His most optimistic, playful, humorous and magical book, a grace note written near the end of his life...The Elephant's Journey is a tale rich in irony and empathy, regularly interrupted by witty reflections on human nature and arch commentary on the powerful who insult human dignity."
-- Los Angeles Times

"Saramago...spun this whimsical yet compulsively readable tale...it's a perfect example of why [he] will be remembered as a master of surreal, enchanting prose."
-- GQ

"A picaresque romp that gleefully skewers the benighted souls clinging to outmoded worldviews while breathtaking new realities unfold right in front of them."
-- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (September 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547352581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547352589
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,079,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had the strangest feeling while reading 'The Elephant's Journey' - I felt like a child, being told a story by an old and indulgent grandparent. I saw him clearly, sitting in an old comfortable chair in a dimly-lit room, talking in a gravelly voice, telling the story of Solomon the elephant, a wedding gift from a king to an archduke, and the long journey that brought him from Portugal through the Alps and finally to Vienna.

Like any good grandfather, Saramago wanders from point to point while telling his tale, musing and meandering. In the middle of the story he may take a few sentences to ruminate whimsically about the nature of royalty or the use of specific language or even his own role in the narrative itself. For this reason, 'The Elephant's Journey' is probably not for everyone. Those who like their tales straight and to the point should pass this one by, as it will be more frustrating than rewarding. Even though I enjoyed it overall, I did find myself occasionally wishing he would get back to the point (again, much like a grandson may feel about his overly verbose grandfather).

However, Saramago does have a good story to tell here and he tells it well. His use of language is (as always) beautiful, and his sense of observation unique and intricate. In the final analysis 'The Elephant's Journey' feels like a fable, a story told and retold so many times that its more fanciful notes fit right in with the elements of realism, and a moral sensibility that holds true from beginning to end.

With the release of this book comes the sad news of Saramago's passing. Even though he has at least one more book to offer us after this one, there was a passage near the end of 'The Elephant's Journey' that seemed particularly fitting to me.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While some have found this novel to be fluffier and of less import than Saramago's other works, I found it classic Saramago with a twist. As he so often does, Saramago has studied history and interpreted it to suit a modern perspective, in this case with the true tale of an elephant and his Mahout bound on a challenging trip across Europe. Here, humor is at the forefront of Saramago's writing style, rather than an undercurrent. All the creatures in the book, both human and animal, are viewed with the same sidelong, amused glance that examines closely while seeming to only mock. Few creatures emerge unscathed, particularly those with a heightened view of themselves -- monarchs and priests, commandants and politicians.

At the center of the tale is Solomon, the elephant of the title, a hairy, bumpy Indian elephant that was a gift to the king and queen of Portugal two years prior. Solomon has languished, neglected, forgotten, and dirty, with only the company of his driver and caretaker (mahout) Subhro, until the queen decides that the animal would make a wonderful wedding gift for the archduke Maximilian and his bride. Each laborious step of the ensuing journey, first across Portugal and Spain to the archduke, then across the Mediterranean and the unforgiving terrain of Northern Italy to the archduke's home in Austria, provides Saramago opportunity after opportunity to examine the human condition. And everything is examined, from the reaction of peasants and townsfolk to the elephant to the arrogance of an archduke who insists on renaming both the elephant (from Solomon to Suleiman) and his mahout (from Subhro to the ludicrous Fritz) to suit his idiosyncratic tastes.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave the Archduke Maximilian of Austria an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. The elephant's journey from Lisbon to Vienna was witnessed and remarked on by ordinary people as well as by scholars and historians. From this, José Saramago has crafted a delightful short novel.

Solomon and his keeper, Subhro, have been living a dismal existence forgotten in a corner of the palace grounds. When King João and his queen decide that the elephant would be an appropriate wedding gift, Subhro is given two new suits of clothes and Solomon an overdue scrub.

Solomon and Subhro travel together on foot from Lisbon to Valladolid, to Catalonia, by sea to Genoa, on to Venice, over the Alps, arriving at Innsbruck on the feast day of Epiphany in 1552, before continuing by barge down the rivers Inn and Danube toward Vienna. For part of the journey, they are accompanied by the Archduke, his new wife and the royal guard. The Archduke renames Subhro `Fritz' and Solomon proves himself to be a natural sailor. Together, the party traverses a continent dived by both the Reformation and civil wars. They travel through the cities of Northern Italy, including Trento where the Council of Trent is in session. They travel at an unhurried pace, largely dictated by Solomon. And wherever they go, they encounter people with various interpretations of the sudden appearance of an elephant in their lives.

`Like magicians, elephants have their secrets.'

One of my favourite passages involves Subhro discussing religion with the Portuguese captain. The discussion is overheard by peasants from a nearby village who, following what they have heard come to a conclusion which they share with their priest: `God is an elephant, father.
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