Cain by Jose SaramagoCain by Jose Saramago


byJose SaramagoTranslated byMargaret Jull Costa

Paperback | October 1, 2012

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Saramago juxtaposes an eminently readable narrative of work and poverty, class and desire, knowledge and timelessness-one in which God, too, as he faces Cain in the wake of Noah's Ark, emerges as far more human than expected." - San Francisco Chronicle In this, his last novel, Jose Saramago daringly reimagines the characters and narratives of the Old Testament, recalling his provocative The Gospel According to Jesus Christ . His tale runs from the Garden of Eden, when God realizes he has forgotten to give Adam and Eve the gift of speech, to the moment when Noah's Ark lands on the dry peak of Ararat. Cain, the despised, the murderer, is Saramago's protagonist.Condemned to wander forever after he kills his brother Abel, Cain makes his way through the world in the company of a personable donkey. He is a witness to and participant in the stories of Isaac and Abraham, the destruction of the Tower of Babel, Moses and the golden calf, the trials of Job. The rapacious Queen Lilith takes him as her lover. An old man with two sheep on a rope crosses his path. And again and again, Cain encounters a God whose actions seem callous, cruel, and unjust.He confronts Him, he argues with Him. "And one thing we know for certain," Saramago writes, "is that they continued to argue and are arguing still."A startling book-sensual, funny-and in all ways a fitting end to Saramago's extraordinary career."A winkingly blasphemous retelling of the Old Testament . . . Saramago, playfully stretching his chatty late style, pokes holes in the stated logic of the Biblical God throughout the novel." - The New Yorker "
JOSE SARAMAGO (1922-2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. MARGARET JULL COSTA has established herself as the premier translator of Portuguese literature into Englis...
Title:CainFormat:PaperbackDimensions:176 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.44 inPublished:October 1, 2012Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0547840179

ISBN - 13:9780547840178

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read! First time reading Saramago and I don't think it'll be my last. Themes of resiliency, resourcefulness, mob-mentality, power, love, etc...
Date published: 2017-11-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read First time reading Saramago and I don't think it'll be my last. Themes of resiliency, resourcefulness, mob-mentality, power, love, etc...
Date published: 2017-11-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Blindness I love the story although it was a slightly difficult read, maybe because it was not originally written in English? It's on my list to be read again eventually.
Date published: 2017-06-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great I love the concept but the book lost me at some points
Date published: 2017-05-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from makes you see This book is a hard read at times, but it goes to show you how people can stick together in rough times, and the resilience that humanity can have in hard times. highly recommend this read. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read! This is a book that you must read! It is a story by Jose Saramago translated from Portuguese into English. I don't know if it was in the translation, or the original style of his writing, but the way it is written in long paragraphs with little punctuation, makes it an interesting read in itself. But the story of blindness coming upon a city, victims being isolated and forgotten, warehoused in an old psychiatric hospital, and what unfolds is a story worth reading!
Date published: 2017-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a terrifying parable about the frailty of the social contract
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect One of the best novels ever written. The style is different; there is a lack of punctuation and speech marks, so everything blends together which some people find annoying. I particularly loved the themes; the fragility of society and the inability of governments to deal with crises. There are also some very disturbing scenes involving rape and bodily functions. I would recommend this if you enjoy reading books written in an unconventional style, and you aren't afraid to read about tough subjects.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I couldn't put it down This book grabs you and doesn't let you go. It quickly found a place as one of my all time favourite books.
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing plot, difficult writing style If you've never read a Saramago novel before than you should be aware that he doesn't like pauses in his writing. That often means long sentences, page-long paragraphs (typically a few pages long actually) and no chapters. The effect can be somewhat overwhelming and unfortunately it would sometimes detract from what would otherwise be a smart and intriguing plot. I really felt for the characters more than I expected and was drawn in to the conflict between them. There are some really great ideas at play here and it was a great read by the end, I just wish it had been presented in a different format (i.e. in digestable paragraphs).
Date published: 2016-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In my Top 5 of all time favourites! This is a fantastic book. I found the premise to be quite original. Deeply thought provoking on many levels. The writing style is a bit odd and I thought that I would not enjoy the book because of it, but once I got used to it, the story itself is very powerful.
Date published: 2015-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Reading With Your Eyes Closed While most people will find disturbing the lack of punctuation and quotations marks, this is used by Saramago to blind us a bit. As we read, we lose all our visual references; there is no point where you can return easily. Saramango did an incredible job making the reader as powerless as the blind were in this book. It’s a deep story about a society that loses their humanity returning to primal instinct. Other than the ending that left me a bit unsatisfied, the book was a hit for me; I would definitely recommend it to anybody willing to get passed the lack of spaces.
Date published: 2012-04-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wow This was a very interesting book. I felt like it was somewhat the adult version of Lord of the Flies. For me, the style of writing was a bit confusing at times but it wasn't difficult.
Date published: 2011-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Blindness Blindness is a novel about a community that slowly starts to go blind, except for one person. After the city discovers that the blindness is contagious they start to quarantine all the blind people inside an abandoned mental hospital. Eventually human nature sets in. The fight for power, food, and water slowly creates chaos within the hospital. A small group of people manage to escape and soon realize that the whole city has gone blind. Blindness then becomes a story about kindness, friendship, and determination in order to survive against all odds. Jose Saramago provides a unique read for everyone to enjoy.
Date published: 2011-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind-blowing. The crazy chaotic pace and structure takes some getting used to, but when you do, you get sucked in. I personally think the non-structure was a masterful choice. A brilliant crooked mirror of our society.
Date published: 2010-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Piece of Work The concept of this novel is very interesting. A society goes blind( except for one person). When the blindness is found to be contagious, the city starts to quarantine everyone..then human nature sets in. Greed, lust, dominance rear their ugly heads in this novel in a way that will make you have to put the book down to regroup. Not all is bad though ,because kindness, passion and solidarity also surface. This novel made me think and want to discuss many things about the human psyche. Upon starting this book, I wondered "is this poor editing?" or ' did they overlook punctuation in the translation?'.Why don't the characters have names? Well, this style is what will make Jose Saramago a very memorable author . His style is untouched. While this will be different read from what most are used to. It is a tough read but give it a chance.!
Date published: 2009-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Perspective I really enjoyed this novel. The most appealing aspect of Saramago's writing was the absence of character names. Undefined speech was also very interesting. These two things definitely influenced how I connected to each character and their situation. Every emotion was touched on as well ... It leads the reader to really think about what it must be like to be blind, but have a sense of awareness (thought the level of awareness is different with each character). You're completely drawn into the story ... I can't wait to read seeing which takes place after the end of this book. As a side note, the movie was not a very good representation of the novel. If you want to see it - watch it BEFORE you read the book.
Date published: 2009-08-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not bad, but not great I often find that certain books that achieve critical acclaim are not for me. This makes me question my "tastes" as a reader. Blindness has won critical acclaim internationally. It is, as many know, a story about a sudden world epidemic of blindness that affects the world - and tells the tale from the view of seven strangers who, all but one, are blind. The book highlights the bad and good that all humans possess. While the ideas and theories about humanity it portrays are thought provoking and riveting, the book is difficult to read. Written in a manner without any grammar, virtually no paragraphs, and identifiers of who is speaking - it becomes too distracting for the reader to contemplate what the author is trying to convey. For that reason, I felt the book was more of a struggle than in ought to have been. I don't mind books that are written "differently", but I cannot find enjoyment in a book that makes me so annoyed and frustrated, I start to sweat.
Date published: 2009-04-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from In a word, FRUSTRATING Blindness was my first encounter with Jose Saramago, and between being beaten over the head with his allegorical commentary, struggling through the lack of punctuation and quotations, and experiencing some of the most horrifying and disturbing scenes I’ve ever read, I am almost at a loss for words. I can only assume that some of the story was lost in translation, or at least I hope so, because even upon reading and re-reading page-long paragraphs, I still didn’t have a clear picture of some of the finer nuances within this daunting narrative. As I gather, this is a statement on the fragility of society, and the weakness of the human condition. It points an accusatory finger at government and authority, and its inability to provide for its citizens in a time of crisis. This of course is brutally honest when considering the disastrous outcome of tragedies like Hurricane Katrina. Its nameless characters are reduced to animal instinct, and as such, spend every waking hour in survival mode, forging for food and water, seeking shelter and protecting their precious lives from others, also just looking to survive, all of this while completely blind. In this regard, Saramago shows us that we are just one small step away from complete and utter chaos, in a world where we rely so heavily on technology and the systems which it has created. Although the main cast of characters are rather one dimensional, they do provide hope that humans can remain civil and loving, even in the most desperate of situations, at least in small groups. Overall, this wasn’t a bad novel, and you do eventually get used to the style in which it was written, but I definitely expected more from it, and find that it was slightly overrated. The plot was gripping, and Saramago’s mind is quite creative, but in the end I just found myself wishing that someone with a different style had produced it.
Date published: 2009-01-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hard read but worth it - soon to be a movie! I didn't love this book as much as the people who recommended it to me, but it was definitely a worth while read that I would recommend to others. The author doesn't use a lot of punctuation, with long run on sentences and no quotation marks which can make it challenging. Plus some of the content is challenging as well. A city is struck with white blindness. People are quarantined and then that doesn't work when everyone falls blind. The people are trapped in the quarantine under the threat of being shot but what goes down behind the closed doors may be worse than being shot. It was definitely a book that made you think. It will either be a great movie or a simply horrible one!
Date published: 2008-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic read! Blindness tells the story of an unnamed city during an unnamed time hit by an epidemic of 'white blindness'. When disaster hits the unnamed city a disturbing portrait of human nature is painted. Although not all bad most characters revert to a state of dependence and lose their ability to look after themselves.The authour takes you through what is a very vivid and believable example of what an epidemic of blindness would be like. The writing is fantastic and I really enjoyed that the characters remained nameless throughout the novel, except for titles given to them by the circumstances they went blind, or by physical features seen only by the doctors wife. Each character is extremely well developed and their stories are told over the course of the book. The final chapters are beautifully written and cap off the story well. This is a great example of human strength and weakness, loyalty and betrayal, and how we take our senses for granted. I was made aware of this book after seeing the recent movie I Am Legend and see the similarities between the two stories. Having read through and thoroughly enjoyed this novel I would highly recommend it as it is obvious why the authour, Jose Saramago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
Date published: 2008-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome This book was truly disturbing and amazing at the same time. It gave me nightmares but it gave me hope and insight as well. Really a very thought provoking book. A unique concept that really stops you in your tracks. A must read!
Date published: 2008-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from truly unbelievable!! This is the one book that everyone should read. It should change your perspective on the simpliest of things that we take for granted. It is amazing to think what would occur with a pandemic of this proportion. It makes you thankful for a glass of water. Highly recommend--it will consume you.
Date published: 2008-02-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant. Incredible 'insight' -amazingly written..a beautiful work. Captures the deepest human vulnerabilities and unravels a fluid nightmare.
Date published: 2008-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This is one of my favourite books. It completely challenges you and Saramago paints absolutely horrifying pictures in your mind but it doesn't ignore the good parts of humanity. It's a heavy but fast-paced and amazing read. I suggest something light afterwards though.
Date published: 2008-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A book everyone must read before they die! Any one should read this book if they want to know what could happen to any human when faced with the most basic and carnal desire to survive in a world that they can no longer see. Faced with only a white blindess the citizens of an unnamed city are thrown together and abandoned by the people whom they trusted. Alone in their blindness the most intimate of human desires surface and take over, a must read for any one who liked Lord of the Flies, while this book takes it to the limit.
Date published: 2008-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good but confusing like it says: good but confusing. (it's confusing b/c there are no quotation marks and it's hard to follow who is talking)
Date published: 2008-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Flores por los Muertos Contemplating just how Saramago's sensational novel will translate into an upcoming film is an unsettling experience. The bleakness he confronts in human nature, and which is so vividly rendered in the physical landscape of his work, may well overshadow the transcendence of our finer qualities that quite mystically uplifts the closing movement of his novel. This is not a work for the faint of heart. The effort required of the reader to affirm a Blakeian higher innocence is daunting. But, if you can withstand the sensory and moral assault, there is philosophical heft , fascinating narrative and great style here.
Date published: 2007-11-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What if an entire city was struck blind? A disturbing look at a city that has been taken over by a white blindness; how they are treated and how they treat one another. The further you read, the more unnerving the story gets.
Date published: 2007-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Amazing it's one of the best books i've ever read in my life! If you are interested in Sociology or Group Behaviour, you would definitely find it interesting. Some parts are very dark, but truly powerful!
Date published: 2007-05-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Lesser Day Of The Triffids I've throughly examined this book and broke it apart and wrote tonnes of notes to myself on it, and have decided that it is, in the final analysis, really just a knock-off of a few other works. Mostly, the concept of mass blindness is lifted from the science fiction classic Day Of The Triffids, and a lot of the situations explored there, are explored here. But not to the same effect, as the actions of the characters in Blindess are often illogical and half-baked. It becomes a very abstracted meditation on the human condition which is unconvincing and ultimately pretentious. But, because it hits the right politically correct buttons, it was obviously destined to win some awards from the people who decide some of these things, at the expense of better work which is less derivative and not lifting ideas from the various sources this one does (and there are several places to point that are pretty blatant). Clearly the "judges" who gave it a prize don't read anything but "important" books, and a guffaw like this happened. A real shame, because there is a lot out there better than this.
Date published: 2006-10-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Study in Human Nature In Blindness, Saramago paints a disturbing portrait of human nature when faced with a disaster. In the novel, an epidemic of white blindness results in anarchy and fear throughout the affected city. The situation brings out the best and worst in the characters of the book. Some resort to theft, rape and violence. The protagonists try to remain true to the rules of civilization while still surviving. This book is definitely not a light read but rather causes you to think about what truly defines humanity and how we ourselves would react in a situation such as the one in the book. It was eerie to see the devastation and anarchy in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina paralleling the events in the novel. The city and the characters names are never used, which reduces the characters to "everyman". They could be our neighbours, our relatives, our friends. I would definitely recommend this book as it causes you to think, and it tells a good story. I wouldn't recommend this book though if you're looking for a fun, happy book to bring with you to the beach. :)
Date published: 2006-07-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from beautiful story This book made me want to read more of the author's books, It was such a great, interesting story. I couldn't stop reading. The action's of the characters were so true to life, shocking and then beautiful.
Date published: 2006-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great book This book is possibly one of the finest I have ever read.
Date published: 2006-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a must read the title says it all - this book will haunt you for years
Date published: 2006-05-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from To Each Their Own I really, really did NOT enjoy this book. I heard such great reviews about it but found it to be very dark and depressing. I didn't find that the story flowed well at all. It took me 2 months to finally get through it because I dreaded picking it up. The only reason I finished it was because I was hoping it would get better ... but it never did. On a positive note, it's a great solution to insomnia!
Date published: 2006-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Icky Existentialism Blindness seems to provide a lot of opportunity to explore existential questions. I suppose that's because the sighted rely so heavily on their eyes to understand the world that the loss of sight is a perfect metaphor for the existentialist view that our world is fundamentally unknowable. What we think we know, we only assume... and are probably wrong. In Blindness, Saramago gets at the core of this uneasiness and exploits it to tremendous effect. Other reviewers have covered the plot pretty well, so I won't go into any detail there. Saramago begins with a character going blind behind the wheel of his car at a stop light. A good samaritan helps him home, only to rob him. In the tradition of poetic justice the thief is the second character to go blind. Gradually everyone within the realm of the city (and one presumes a good chunk of the world since no outside help is proffered) contracts this epidemic blindness save for one woman, who finds herself guiding a band of not-so-merry blindfolk. At the outbreak of the disease, the government carts off the newly-blind to be quarantined leave them neglected and unsupported, without enough food for all the inmates. Anyone trying to escape is killed by snipers. No one will enter the building for fear of contracting the blindness. In Lord of the Flies fashion a form of tribalism takes over with one group of male goons ruling with iron fists over the others, extorting sex and money in exchange for food. Saramago carries us through the gradual descent into anarchy as everything that keeps society functioning dissembles. If hell is other people as Sartre supposed, there's no question that hell is infinitely worse when basic hygiene practices have been abandoned. There are passages in the book with such vivid descriptions that I could literally smell and taste the squalor in the air around me. Eventually, our clan of blindfolk make their way back to the city and proceed to simply do what it takes to survive in this new world. Saramago may have existentialist questions, but if Blindness is any indication he is confident in humanity's ability to survive anything. If you like Blindness, I'd recommend Joseph Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late for a different treatment of a similar situation. In How Late... , the main character wakes up on the side of the road to discover that a drunken row with a policeman has left him blind. In both books, the very bureaucracy that is supposed to help those in need is their biggest obstacle. In both cases, the blind character(s) are left to their own devices to exist in a world that won't accommodate them. Both books are raw, and unabashed about the unpleasant elements of human behaviour, but Blindness is more hopeful than How Late... At the end of Blindness, we are confident society will be able to rebuild. Kelman leaves us no such comfort.
Date published: 2005-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant Blindness This was one of the most powerful and original books that I have read in a long time. Select individuals struck by a highly contagious 'disease' become quarantined and are forced to fend for themselves.
Date published: 2001-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Definitely one of my top ten reads... One of the most outstanding works that I have ever read. This novel provides a chillingly realistic look at man's inhumanity to one another, particularly at times of stress and uncertainty. The writing style is unusual, but it's ambiguity provides the reader with a taste of the blindness that the novel's characters are experiencing. Quite a remarkable feat for a written work. Truly a must read, but don't look to this book for a 'quick pick me up'
Date published: 2000-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Blindness This novel provides the reader with a brutally honest and harsh view of humanity. It was refreshing to see an author step back and objectively analyze humanity rather than boast of humanity's dominance. I enjoyed the novel due to both the author's honesty and the author's writing style. This novel is written as a person would think. Slightly unorganized and cluttered. The ending is slightly too convenient, but this novel is very reflective of humanity's strengths and weaknesses. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2000-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from EXCELLENT READ! Saramago's book is so perfect that I have recommended it to nearly every person that I have come across. This is my favourite book, and I hope that you will enjoy it as I have! Besides being an unpredictable read, it is a great study of society: how people treat each other. READ IT!
Date published: 2000-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant The Stone Raft is good enough to restore ones faith in the power of literature. Jose Saramago seems to have remembered that the basis of any great novel is the story. And this is a great story. One day, the Iberian Peninsula shears off from the European continent and begins to drift across the Atlantic Ocean. A diverse group of Portugese and Spaniards wander across the "island" searching for answers as to why this has occured. What they find are the answers to many important and difficult questions. Fortunately, the "point" of the story never gets in the way of what is a great adventure. Touching, gripping, eye opening and hugely entertaining, this is one of the best novels I have read in years.
Date published: 2000-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from BLIND THAT CAN SEE Saramago creates a fascinating atmosphere full of metaphors and similes in order to build up the perfect alegory of contemporary humankind: blinded by selfishness, by its thirst for power, by its perverse instincts, by desparation; but ther´s also a blind love between an old man and a young, confused woman. So, perhaps the best and the worst things of humanity are sightless, or shall we better agree with the ofthalmologist´s wife that we all are blind, but blind that can see.
Date published: 1999-10-22

Read from the Book

1 When the lord, also known as god, realized that adam and eve, although perfect in every outward aspect, could not utter a word or make even the most primitive of sounds, he must have felt annoyed with himself, for there was no one else in the garden of eden whom he could blame for this grave oversight, after all, the other animals, who were, like the two humans, the product of his divine command, already had a voice of their own, be it a bellow, a roar, a croak, a chirp, a whistle or a cackle. In an excess of rage, surprising in someone who could have solved any problem simply by issuing another quick fiat, he rushed over to adam and eve and unceremoniously, no half-measures, stuck his tongue down the throats of first one and then the other. From the texts which, over the centuries, have provided a somewhat random record of those remote times, be it of events that might, at some future date, be awarded canonical status and others deemed to be the fruit of apocryphal and irredeemably heretical imaginations, it is not at all clear what kind of tongue was being referred to here, whether the moist, flexible muscle that moves around in the buccal cavity and occasionally outside it too, or the gift of speech, also known as language, that the lord had so regrettably forgotten to give them and about which we know nothing, since not a trace of it remains, not even a heart engraved on the bark of a tree, accompanied by some sentimental message, something along the lines of I love eve. It’s likely that the lord’s violent assault on his offspring’s silent tongues had another motive, namely, given that, in principle, you can’t have one without the other, that of putting them in contact with the deepest depths of their physical being, the so-called perturbations of the inner self, so that, in future, they could, with some authority, speak of those dark and labyrinthine disquiets out of whose window, the mouth, their tongues were already peering. Well, anything is possible. With the praiseworthy scrupulousness of any skilled craftsman, making up with due humility for his earlier negligence, the lord wanted to make sure that his mistake had been corrected, and so he asked adam, What’s your name, and the man replied, I’m adam, your first-born. Then the creator turned to the woman, And what is your name, I’m Eve, the first lady, she replied rather unnecessarily, since there was no other. The lord was satisfied and bade farewell with a fatherly See you later, then, and went about his business. And, for the first time, adam said to eve, Let’s go to bed.   Seth, their third child, will only come into the world one hundred and thirty years later, not because his mother’s womb required that amount of time to complete the making of a new descendant, but because the gonads of father and mother, the testes and ovaries respectively, had taken more than a century to mature and to develop sufficient generative power. It must be pointed out to our more impatient readers, first, that the fiat was given once and once only, second, that men and women are not sausage machines, and, third, that hormones are very complicated things, they can’t just be produced from one day to the next, nor can they be found in pharmacies or supermarkets, you have to let matters take their course. Before seth came into the world, cain had already arrived, followed, shortly afterwards, by abel. By the way, one must not underestimate the intense boredom of all those years spent without neighbors, without distractions, without some small child crawling about between kitchen and living room, with no other visitors but the lord, and even his visits were few and very brief, interspersed by long intervals of absence, ten, fifteen, twenty, fifty years, so we can easily imagine that the sole occupants of that earthly paradise must have felt like poor orphans abandoned in the forest of the universe, not that they would have been able to explain what the words orphan and abandoned meant. It’s true that every now and then, although again not with any great frequency, adam would say to eve, Let’s go to bed, but their conjugal routine, aggravated, in their case, due to inexperience, by the complete lack of alternative positions to adopt, proved to be as destructive as an invasion of woodworm to a roof beam. You hardly notice anything from the outside, just a little dust here and there falling from tiny holes, but, inside, it’s quite a different matter, and the collapse of something that had seemed so sturdy will not be long in coming. In such situations, there are those who say that a child can have an enlivening effect, if not on the libido, which is the work of chemicals far more complex than merely learning how to change a diaper, then at least on feelings, which, you must admit, is no small gain. As for the lord and his sporadic visits, the first was to see if adam and eve had had any problems setting up house, the second to find out what benefits they had gleaned from their experience of country life and the third to warn them that he would not be back for a while, because he had to do the rounds of the other paradises that exist in the heavens. Indeed, he would not appear again until much later, on a date that has not been recorded, in order to expel the unhappy couple from the garden of eden for the heinous crime of having eaten of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This episode, which gave rise to the first definition of a hitherto unknown concept, original sin, has never been satisfactorily explained. Firstly, even the most rudimentary of intelligences would have no difficulty in grasping that being properly informed about something is always preferable to being ignorant, especially in such delicate matters as good and evil, which could put anyone at risk, quite unwittingly, of being consigned to eternal damnation in a hell that had not yet been invented. Secondly, the lord showed a lamentable lack of foresight, because if he really didn’t want them to eat that fruit, it would have been easy enough simply not to have planted the tree or to have put it somewhere else or surrounded it with barbed wire. Thirdly, it wasn’t because they had disobeyed god’s instructions that adam and eve discovered they were naked. They were already stark naked when they went to bed, and if the lord had never noticed such an evident lack of modesty, the fault must lie with a father’s blindness, an apparently incurable infliction that prevents us from seeing that our children are, after all, neither better nor worse than all the others.   A point of order. Before we continue with this instructive and definitive history of cain, undertaken with unprecedented boldness, it might be advisable to introduce some clarity into the chronology of events. So, let us begin by clearing up certain malicious doubts about adam’s ability to make a child when he was one hundred and thirty years old. At first sight, if we stick to the fertility indices of modern times, no, he clearly wouldn’t, but during the world’s infancy, those same one hundred and thirty years would have represented a vigorous adolescence that not even the most precocious of casanovas would have sneered at. It is, moreover, worth remembering that adam lived until he was nine hundred and thirty years old, thus narrowly missing being drowned in the great flood, for he died when lamech was still alive, lamech being the father of noah, the future builder of the ark. He would, therefore, have had the time and leisure to make all the children he did make and many more if he had so wished. As we said earlier, adam’s second child, born after cain, was abel, a handsome, fair-haired boy, who, having been the object of the best proofs of the lord’s esteem, met a very sticky end indeed. The third child, as we also said, was called seth, but he will not form part of this narrative, which we are writing step by step with all the meticulousness of a historian, and so we’ll leave him here, just a name and nothing more. There are those who say that the idea of creating a religion was born in his head, but we have given abundant attention to such ticklish matters in the past, with reprehensible levity, according to some experts, and in terms that will doubtless prove deleterious to us when it comes to the final judgment at which everyone will be condemned, either for doing too much or too little. We are only interested now in the family of which father adam is the head, although he proved to be a very bad head, and we really can’t put it any other way, since all it took was for his wife to offer him the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil and our illogical first patriarch, after a certain amount of persuasion, more for appearance’s sake than out of any real conviction, duly choked on it, leaving us men marked forever by that irritating piece of apple that will neither go up nor down. There are also those who say that the reason adam didn’t manage to swallow the whole of that fateful fruit was because the lord suddenly turned up, demanding to know what was going on. Now before we forget about it completely or before our continuation of the story renders the fact redundant because it comes too late, we will tell you about the stealthy, almost clandestine visit the lord made to the garden of eden one hot summer night. As usual, adam and eve were sleeping, naked, beside each other, not touching, a deceptively edifying image of the most perfect innocence. They did not wake up, and the lord did not wake them either. He had gone there with the intention of correcting a slight flaw, which, as he had finally realized, seriously marred his creations, and that flaw, can you believe it, was the lack of a navel. The pale skin of his babies, untouched by the gentle sun of paradise, was too naked, too vulnerable, and in a way obscene, if that word existed then. Quickly, in case they should wake up, god reached out and very lightly pressed adam’s belly with the tip of his forefinger, making a rapid circling movement, and there was a navel. The same procedure, carried out on eve, produced similar results, with the one important difference that her navel was much better as regards design, shape and the delicacy of its folds. This was the last time that the lord looked upon his work and saw that it was good.   Fifty years and one day after this fortunate surgical intervention, which gave rise to a new era in the aesthetics of the human body under the consensual motto that everything about it can always be improved, disaster struck. With a crack of thunder, the lord appeared. He was dressed differently from usual, in keeping perhaps with what would become the new imperial fashion in heaven, wearing a triple crown on his head and wielding a scepter as if it were a cudgel. I am the lord, he cried, I am he. A mortal silence fell over the garden of eden, not a sound, not even the buzz of a wasp, the barking of a dog, the trilling of a bird, or the trumpeting of an elephant. Nothing, only the chattering of a flock of starlings that had congregated in a leafy olive tree, there since the garden was first created, and which suddenly took flight as one, so many, hundreds, if not thousands of them, that they nearly obscured the sky. Who has disobeyed my orders, who has eaten of the fruit of my tree, asked god, fixing adam with a look that can only be described as coruscating, a word which, though highly expressive, has sadly fallen out of use. In desperation, the poor man tried in vain to swallow the telltale piece of apple, but his voice refused to come out, neither fore nor aft. Answer, said the angry voice of the lord, who was brandishing his scepter in a most threatening manner. Plucking up his courage, and conscious of how wrong it was to put the blame on someone else, adam said, The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of that tree and I did eat. The lord turned on the woman and asked, What is this that you have done, The serpent beguiled me and I did eat, Liar, deceiver, there are no serpents in paradise, Lord, I did not say that there were serpents in paradise, but I did have a dream in which a serpent appeared to me, saying, So god has forbidden you to eat the fruit of every tree in the garden, and I said no, that wasn’t true, that the only tree whose fruit we could not eat was the one that grows in the middle of paradise, for we would die if we touched it, Serpents can’t speak, at most they hiss, said the lord, The serpent in my dream spoke, And may one know what else the serpent said, asked the lord, trying to give the words a mocking tone that ill accorded with the celestial dignity of his robes, The serpent said that we wouldn’t die, Oh, I see, the lord’s irony was becoming more and more marked, it would seem that this serpent thinks he knows more than I do, That is what I dreamed, my lord, that you didn’t want us to eat of that fruit because we would open our eyes and know good and evil just as you know them, lord, And what did you do, you fallen, frivolous woman, when you woke from this delightful dream, I went straight to the tree, ate the fruit and brought some back for adam, who also ate, It got stuck just here, said adam, touching his throat, Right, said the lord, if that’s the way you want it, that’s the way it shall be, from now on you can bid farewell to the good life, you, eve, will not only suffer all the discomforts of pregnancy, morning sickness included, you will give birth in pain, and yet you will still feel desire for your husband, and he shall rule over you, Poor me, said eve, what a bad beginning, and what a sad fate will be mine, You should have thought of that before, and as for you, adam, the ground is cursed because of you, and in sorrow will you eat of it all of your days, it will bring forth only thorns and thistles, and you will have to eat the herbs of the fields, only by the sweat of your brow will you manage to grow enough to eat, until you return to the ground out of which you came, wretched adam, for dust you are and to dust you will return. That said, the lord plucked out of the air a couple of animal skins to cover the nakedness of adam and eve, who exchanged knowing winks, for they had known they were naked from the very first day and had made the most of it too. Then the lord said, In knowing good and evil, man has become like a god, and if you were to eat of the fruit of the tree of life you would gain eternal life, whatever next, two gods in one universe, that is why I am expelling you and your wife from the garden of eden, at whose gate I will place an angel armed with a flaming sword, who will let no one enter, now go, leave, I never want to see you again. Bearing on their backs the stinking animal hides, staggering along on unsteady legs, adam and eve resembled two orangutans who had stood upright for the first time. Outside of the garden of eden, the earth was arid and inhospitable, the lord was not exaggerating when he threatened adam with thorns and thistles. As he had so rightly said, the good life was over.

Editorial Reviews

Cain's vagabond journey builds to a stunning climax that, like the book itself, is a fitting capstone to a remarkable career ."- Publishers Weekly, starred"Saramago transforms familiar stories boldly , but with an intricate respect for their power and for the mysterious power of storytelling itself. Far from merely inverting the biblical tales or turning them inside out, he folds and refolds them in a prismatic, shadowly light ."-Robert Pinsky, New York Times Book Review "