Cain by José Saramago

CainIt is a delight to read a novel from José Saramago once again where he gets to argue with God one last time as this happens to be his last written work where he hires Cain to call out on God’s sins and mistakes.

The novel centers on the imagined life of Cain, Adam and Eve’s first son, who slayed his brother Abel, thus committing humanity’s first murder. The book jumps from one Biblical story to another known as “different presents.”

I enjoyed how Saramago ludicrously connected the stories and how entertaining the dialogues were between Cain and all the other characters. I know many religious folks would find this sacrilegious, blasphemous or challenging for at the core of this book is a sense of outrage to the God in the Hebrew Bible, but I guess, one’s satisfaction in reading this novel depends on how they approach it. A bit of an open mind is required to get through.

As to the author’s writing style, first time readers might find it annoying and confusing as Saramago is fond of mashing together the dialogues in his works and only uses commas to separate one speaker from another. It might take others some time getting used to his style of writing but that shouldn’t stop readers from reading and enjoying his books. Rereading the passages a second or third time will help make sense of it.

The last page was stunning, specially the final line, “The story, though, is over, there will be nothing more to tell.” A very fitting end for a brilliant writer. He did went out with a great one.

Cain is a laugh out loud funny little read but at the same time makes us chew on several profound moral questions about the nature of God and events in the Old Testament.

Quotable Quotes:

“The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn’t understand us, and we don’t understand him.”

“I don’t know the details, and the savor of any story is always in the details.”

“Doubt is the privilege of those who have lived a long time.”

“God should be as clear and transparent as a pane of glass and not go wasting his energies on creating an atmosphere of constant terror and fear.”

“It’s odd how lightly people speak about the future, as if they held it in their hand, as if it was in their power to push it further off or bring it nearer in accordance with the needs and expediencies of the moment.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

 

 

 

Blindness by José Saramago

fullsizerender-1-19Book #26.

I attempted to read this book four or five times since I received it but hadn’t gotten way past ten pages. It’s not that it’s a difficult read, I just couldn’t get a grip on it. Anyhow, I gave it a shot again last week and I guess the timing’s quite right because I was able to finish it in just a few days.

In a nutshell, Blindness is about a society that collapsed following a worldwide plague of literal blindness. The story begins with a man in his car at a stoplight waiting for the lights to change. Inexplicably, he goes blind. Soon, everyone he goes in contact with go blind. And it follows. So the blindness spreads out all over the nameless place.

All the characters are also nameless. We only get to know them as the doctor, the doctor’s wife, the boy with the squint, the dog of tears, the old man with the black eye patch and so on. This for me adds up to the goodness of the book.

Having had the chance to read The Gospel According to Jesus Christ earlier this year prepared me enough, I guess, to get used to his way of writing. Yes, for me, it needs a bit of getting used to it at first. For one, it’s written in a very dense way, there are no speech marks and no breaks for dialogues, it’s all written in the same lines. I get lost at some points while reading because everyone’s words merge altogether that I have to read it again to make sure I understand who’s saying what. I kind of felt blind, too, in a way as I get lost in the book at times. But I must say that the way the book’s written heightens the enjoyment of reading this book.

The major themes include the presence and lack of morality in a damaged society and the consequences of doing right and wrong. The murder of the leader of the troublemakers in the asylum is one example of making a difficult moral decision in the novel. Prior to this, the doctor’s wife finds out that she actually brought a pair of scissors. She never used it but just hangs it on the wall. She soon made use of it later in the story after the tragic thing that happened to her and the other women in the asylum.

The novel also showed us how fragile a society and how weak/strong humans can be. We see all the characters turn blind (except for one) reduce to animal instinct in order to survive. Señor Saramago blames the authorities for not being able to provide for its people in times of crisis. This is very true and happens almost everywhere nowadays. Furthermore, he tells us that we’re not far from sheer chaos even though we are now living in a modern world that relies mostly on technology.

Blindness is an allegory that people who can see are blind in reality. People don’t see what’s really happening in the world. Blindness is present in the failures of authorities to give what is expected of them. It is present in major issues the world is facing now. People fail to perceive the suffering around them thus resulting to failure of achieving a better community. Towards the end of the story, the characters start to recover their eyesight which strengthens the story’s status as an allegory. This shows that their blindness was just a way of teaching or letting them see and rethink the kind of life they’re living.

This is a very thought-provoking book that will remind every reader to look, or moreover, see everything around us as clearly as we could. Let’s always try our best not to turn a blind eye to the real cruelty/terrors that surround our lives.

Quotable Quotes:

“Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.”

“I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”

“When all is said and done, what is clear is that all lives end before their time.”

“Words are like that, they deceive, they pile up, it seems they do not know where to go, and, suddenly, because of two or three or four that suddenly come out, simple in themselves, a personal pronoun, an adverb, an adjective, we have the excitement of seeing them coming irresistibly to the surface through the skin and the eyes and upsetting the composure of our feelings, sometimes the nerves that can not bear it any longer, they put up with a great deal, they put up with everything, it was as if they were wearing armor, we might say.”

“If we cannot live entirely like human beings, at least let us do everything in our power not to live entirely like animals.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

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The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago

img_4671Book #13.

This controversial book tells the tale of Jesus Christ since his birth up to his death. It basically follows what’s written in the Bible but with some very notable changes. Here we see Jesus as human just like all of us, that Mary Magdalene is his lover, God’s working relationship with the devil and more.

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is my first Saramago read and I must say I found it very interesting. While reading this, part of me kind of believed this was actually the real story but thanks to the humorous and sarcastic interruptions every now and then that it reminded me it’s not. The writing style was new to me, the narration are in very long sentences and paragraphs with almost no breaks but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this. What struck me the most I guess is the part towards the end where God, Jesus and the devil had a conversation on the boat. This is where Saramago tells us that if God exists, He is an egomaniac and not the God we assume He is nowadays. Soon enough, Jesus was disappointed as he realized that he was a victim of God’s pride, a sacrificial lamb as Saramago puts it.

I do understand the controversy of this book as Jesus is not as righteous as Christians think he is in Senhor Saramago’s pen. This will insult and shock many but this is how he writes. Take it or leave it.

Quotable Quotes :

“The time for miracles has either passed or not come yet, besides, miracles, genuine miracles, whatever people say, are not such a good idea, if it means destroying the very order of things in order to improve them.”

“For human words are like shadows, and shadows are incapable of explaining light and between shadow and light there is the opaque body from which words are born.”

“This is how everyone has to begin, men who have never known a woman, women who have never known a man, until the day comes for the one who knows to teach the one who does not.”

“Somewhere in the infinite that He occupies, God advances and withdraws the pawns of the other games He plays, but it is too soon to worry about this one, all He need do for the present is allow things to take their natural course, apart from the occasional adjustment with the tip of His little finger to make sure some stray thought or action does not interfere with the harmony of destinies.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

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