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Cain

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  19,973 ratings  ·  1,808 reviews
In this, his last novel, José 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, th ...more
Hardcover, 159 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published October 18th 2009)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  19,973 ratings  ·  1,808 reviews


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Jim Fonseca
Another great book from the Nobel-prize-winning (1998) Portuguese author. It’s a re-imagining of the Old Testament (which the author has called the Book of Nonsense) in the way that the author’s “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” re-imagined the New. (In the book, the author does not capitalize proper names but I did so because it looks odd otherwise.)

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Cain slays his brother, Abel, and then travels through various times and places of the Old Testament. In his wanderings he stumbles across Ab
...more
Petra-X
The God of the New Testament is a much more murderous god than that of the Old. In the Old, Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac, but God stops him from doing so. In the New, God has Jesus killed in a slow, painful, tortuous death. What kind of god thinks a blood sacrifice to the death makes up for anything?

I listened to this book rather than read it because I can't stand Saramago's idiosyncratic punctuation (or lack of it, more like). But the voice of both the narrator and the author, the smarm
...more
Agnieszka
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The lord, also known as god, created adam and eve, but due to tiredness of the act of creation or perhaps other minor distractions forgot to bestow them with the gift of speech, so to remedy that just stuck unceremoniously his tongue into them. However it seemed bizarre it worked excessively well but what adam did with his new art, Let’s go to bed, he said to eve. Typical. Ok, ok he probably couldn’t say how lovely dressed you are since they were naked, but still, though they hadn’t bed too, I g
...more
BlackOxford
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Portuguese Midrash

Saramago’s Cain is a traditional Midrash, a meditative, speculative commentary on the Torah, the first five books of the Jewish and Christian bibles. Despite its often comedic, mostly polemic assessment of the God of the Torah, conventionally ascribed to Moses, Saramago isn’t the first or the most strident critic to take seriously the personality of Yahweh and what it might imply for humanity and the rest of creation.

The most remarkable aspect of the work isn’t its content b
...more
Fabian
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I get Saramago's genius. Way late*, yeah, but I FINALLY get it...!!

(cue to me running barefoot downhill, waving arms, surrendering to literary genius at long last)

Sacrilegious, funny--the prose finally twines itself with my alert reader's sensitivity... the cascade of commas, the deficit of paragraphs, capitalizations, periods: all the magician's tricks finally seem to me to be EARNED. Previously, I've been uninspired by "The History of the Siege of Lisbon" and "The Double": the acrobatics leadi
...more
Jibran
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jibran by: Matt
Shelves: fiction, nobel, god
The life of a god isn’t as easy as you think, said God to Cain.

When Cain meets an angel and enters into an argument about the oblation god has ordered Abraham to make of his own son, the angel, feeling trapped, mutters under his breath, Oh no, a rationalist, and tries to sneak away to complete the divine mission with which he’s charged. The angel might have turned a deaf ear to Cain’s cold logic, but you, the angelic reader, have no recourse but to subject yourself to his grilling.

The hero or an
...more
Kalliope



The Mark of CAIN Saramago.
.

I enjoyed revisiting Genesis accompanying Saramago’s Cain.

With this rebellious murderer who, after all, is a man who seeks justice, we are offered to time-travel with him through that first Book of Everything. We jump forwards and jump backwards in the genesis narrative, and every time there is a change in gear the reader is given a jolt. And a new breath and freshness sweeps over this reverted genesis.

Saramago’s Cain is a disappointed man. And it is his disappoin
...more
Fionnuala

José Saramago is certainly not the first writer to question the logic of the old testament, the legitimacy of the Lord's pronouncements, and the merits of the prophets who interpreted those pronouncements for the benefit of the descendants of Adam and Eve, and sometime later, for the benefit of descendants of the very small gene pool of Noah’s family who survived the Flood and repopulated the earth when everyone else was drowned, but Saramago is possibly one of the most creative and original to
...more
Kinga
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2009
In 'Cain', published just a few months before Saramago’s death, the author gets to argue with God one last time. On this occasion his jibes are aimed at the god of the Old Testament, who, as we all know, is an easy target. This god is cruel, proud, jealous, vindictive, inconsistent and often simply petty.

Saramago hires Cain to call out god on all his sins and errors beginning with Cain’s own sorry story which made him go down in history as the first murderer of the worst kind. But weren’t there
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2012)
We all know that Cain was the firstborn of Adam and Eve. He was a farmer and he killed Abel, the first human to die, because of jealousy due to later being more favored by God. That made him the first human murderer and he was condemned by God and made him roam the earth forever. This book, the last book completed by Nobel laureate Jose de Suosa Saramago (1922-2010) before his death, Cain is about him and his journey after the killing. Like Forrest Gump, the wandering Cain of Saramago witnessed ...more
Tony
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: portugese, religion
The Bible is a playground of stories, of characters, of parables, of moral dilemmas. Some take it literally, the WORD OF GOD. Some think it nonsense. Highly entertaining nonsense. But nonsense nonetheless.

Saramago, in this his final work, thinks it nonsense. He has tapped this mine before, in The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, but here he goes again, telling the story of Cain and Abel but then projecting Cain as an observer and sometime participant on other Bible stories. Thus: Cain shows up
...more
Ivan
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Verdict is the same after second read still 5 stars and spot on my favorites list. Blasphemy, religious satire and poisonously dark humor, what's there not to love?
Bill
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
By all accounts, Portuguese Nobel Prize-winner Saramago was no fan of God, although he seems to have remained God-haunted throughout his life. In this, his posthumously-published, final novel, his protagonist Cain protests the unjust violence he observes God committing as he participates in a series of reimagined stories from the Old Testament, e.g. Abraham and Isaac, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Noah and his Ark.

Sentenced by God to be a "fugitive and a vagabond on earth" after mu
...more
Edward
Compared to The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, Saramago is a lot more laid back here, a lot less subtle, like he's shooting fish in a barrel. But as far as contradictions and inconsistencies go, The Old Testament (or as Saramago calls it, The Book of Nonsense) is pretty low-hanging fruit. Whether it's God's destruction of innocent children in Sodom and Gomorrah, while choosing to save only the "honourable" Lot (who had earlier offered his daughters' virginity to the mob, and who later sleeps ...more
Théodore
Asking questions,and drawing attention to inconsistencies in sacred texts, is not exactly compatible with a good believer. Fortunately, a writer does not have to folow such rules. At will, he can take any character from the Bible, and put it in all possible contexts.
I discovered, with pleasure, that Saramago's last novel - "Cain" - does just that : he plays, irreverently, with well- known characters from the Bible, and dismantles all conventions, paving the way for many questions concerning ma
...more
Owlseyes
I've just read some pages, and I surely can envision much to come, of the same.

It starts quoting Hebrews 11:4. “By faith, Abel offered God a sacrifice….and by faith Abel, though dead, still speaks". A quote from the Book of "rubbish/non-sense", according to Saramago.

An imperfect Creation, that's the main issue: (1) God got aware later that Adam and Eve (in the book: adam and eve) didn’t speak: so God made a tongue (both the muscle and the idiom); afterwards the creation. (2) God corrected late
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Fede
Eighteen years after "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ", his merciless onslaught against the New Testament, Saramago is back to finish the job. The result is an equally outrageous and - alas - good job, a crazy retelling of the Old Testament as seen through the eyes of the most controversial character of all: Cain, the first murder in human history, the Evil Brother who is actually the Evil Half of mankind... of any single human being, that is.


The book of Genesis is full of murders, despair
...more
Ray
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Cain kills his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy and is forced to wander the earth in penance. This book shows us what Cain did next. We see him pass through many of the key events of the Old Testament. He is there for example at the testing of Job, the razing of the walls of Jericho and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Throughout he is in dialogue with God. He understands not how the God of love and justice can be capricious, spiteful, jealous and uncaring - or as Tim Minchin memorably put
...more
Vivian
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
"Blessed are those who choose sedition because theirs is the kingdom of Earth."


CAIN is to the Old Testament as DECAMERON is to 14th century (Catholic) Church.

One could argue, quite easily that it is blasphemous. Cain is the protagonist in this time traveling jaunt through the highlights of 'What was God thinking?' in the Old Testament.

This is small taste as Cain witnesses a discussion between Abraham and Isaac:
"Father, I don't understand this religion, But you have to, my son you have n
...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
God is ineffable, say his disciples. In Saramago's recreation of the old testament, god is snide, foppish, vicious, capricious, puerile, contemptuous, crabby, and a slouch at multi-tasking (and no iconic capital letters for this merry band of pranksters). This short but adventure-packed novella presents a new twist on the story of cain, the fratricidal brother. Weed out all the boring parts of Genesis, feature all the greatest hits, and place cain as the ubiquitous character. Actually, cain even ...more
Matt
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the last work of José Saramago. The older he got, the more freely he felt, and the more radically he took a political stand, and throughout his life the author has made no secret of being an atheist. The publication of this book has led to some confusion and heated debates, and Saramago was called a "heretic" by the Portuguese bishops.

The book tells the story of Cain being cast by God to the land of Nod, East of Eden to lead a miserably life. From there Cain takes off to some kind of tim
...more
Dijana
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Exactly my cup of tea. Wish it was longer though, that is the main complaint I have about this book.
The writing style was a little odd at the beginning, but I got used to it pretty quickly (to the weird format of dialogue in the book, especially).

“our god, the creator of heaven and earth, is completely mad”


I think that this quote summarizes the book perfectly. If you're in a mood for reading slightly blasphemous, but yet funny and thought-provoking book with just above 150 pages, l
...more
Lubinka Dimitrova
My first Saramago most certainly will not be the last one. I wonder what took me so long to discover him. Definitely not what I expected from his writing style, but actually much better than anticipated.
Kamil
Old Testament in a witty, argumentative and and full of sarcastic humour version. Shown through the eyes of human, very aware and resistant to God's charm, Cain.
Cain punished by God for killing Abel, wanders around biblical world, travelling back and forth in time, and keeping God responsible for all the deeds (often more violent than killing one's brother), that everyone else takes with humility.
The last, published just before his death, Saramago's novel, showing his disappointment with God t
...more
Ellinor
Kain is a parody on the bible: After killing his brother Abel Cain is sent around the world and also through time. He witnesses the most important scenes in the Old Testament (e.g. Noah building his Arch, Abraham sacrificing Issac, the dance around the Golden Calf etc). But all scenes are seen through the eyes of someone not believing in God's deeds.
José Saramago writes really witty dialogues and after having read the first two chapters I thought that this would be the funniest book I had ever r
...more
Tudor Vlad
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
No time to write much, I'll just say that unfortunately I read this at the wrong time and this is the only reason it gets 4 stars. I read it while I was clearly not in the mood for a Saramago book but I thought that as we Romanians put it "appetite comes with eating", that unfortunately wasn't the case. While I did enjoy it nonetheless, I could feel how a lot of the genius of Jose Saramago was lost on me because of my mood, or lack of it. I will definitely have to reread it someday.
Lakis Fourouklas
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
“The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn’t understand us and we don’t understand him.”
This is one of those books that one truly enjoys to read; and I did. Saramago in this, his last offering before he passed away, recreates in his own special way the life of Cain and offers the reader, especially the one who’s not too attached to the words of the scriptures, a chance to have a few good laughs. While reading it, I dare to admit that, I found myself a
...more
jeremy
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
the late josé saramago was quite the prolific writer, having composed over thirty books, including an array of acclaimed novels, poetry, and journals. actively writing until his death at the age of 87 in 2010, the portuguese nobel laureate's international renown was often marked by controversy and criticism. cain (caim), his final work, was published in his native language in 2009, and stirred many of the same sentiments as his earlier, thematically-linked novel, the gospel according to jesus ch ...more
Caterina
”It’s simple enough. I killed abel because I couldn’t kill you, so, in intent, you are dead too.”—cain

2.5/5 José Saramago is one of my favorite authors not only for his lyrical, compassionate, and humane storytelling, but because he takes aim with scathing satire at the violent and oppressive “powers that be.” I always have to grapple with his confrontational thought, it changes me. This book makes me uneasy, makes me wrestle with my angel, I both like and dislike it.

Cain reimagines the biblical
...more
Terence
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Terence by: New Book shelf @ Glendora Library; I like Biblical reinterpretations
Shelves: religion-general
When I saw that Harold Bloom had reviewed José Saramago's last novel in a recent issue of the NYRB, I was tempted to give the book three stars, unread, on principle alone. Unfortunately, for all his bombast, ego & condescension, Bloom can be a penetrating critic, and I am forced to agree with his conclusion that "what goes wrong in Cain is...its incessant tendentiousness: it has too palpable a design upon us."

I'd like to understand Cain as the first draft of something that might have evolved int
...more
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12,082 followers
José Saramago is one of the most important international writers of the last hundred years. Born in Portugal in 1922, he was in his sixties when he came to prominence as a writer with the publication of Baltasar and Blimunda. A huge body of work followed, translated into more than forty languages, and in 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Saramago died in June 2010.

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“The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn't understand us, and we don't understand him.” 69 likes
“our god, the creator of heaven and earth, is completely mad” 36 likes
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