Judith's Reviews > Cain

Cain by José Saramago
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's review
Mar 16, 2012

really liked it

This was the last book written by this Nobel prize winning author of (among others) "Blindness" and "The Elephant's Journey". It reminded me so much of Mark Twain's bitterness and disgust with the Bible and Christianity toward the end of his life when he wrote "Letters from the Earth" and "The Mysterious Stranger". However, Saramago is much more light-hearted in his satire, and despite his obvious disgust of the stories of the bible, he ends his book on an upbeat note, describing man and God's relationship : ". . . and one thing we know for certain is that they continued to argue and are arguing still."

In this story, we follow Cain from his famous crime through his adventures as he wanders through the old testament continually shocked at God's cruelty and callous treatment of mankind. He happens onto Abraham about to kill Isaac and grabs the father's hand just as it is about to strike the son with the knife. I should mention that Saramago has his own particular style of punctuating, and like reading subtitles in a foreign film, you quickly get used to it.

"But the lord told me to do it, said Abraham, struggling, Keep still, or I'll be the one who does the killing, untie that boy at once, then kneel down and beg his forgiveness,Who are you, My name is cain, I'm the angel who saved isaac's life. This isn't true, cain is no angel, that title belongs to the being who has just landed with a great flapping of wings and who is now declaiming like an actor who has finally heard his cue, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, nor do anything to him, for now I know that thou fearest the Lord, being prepared for love of him, to sacrifice even your only son, You're late, said cain, the only reason isaac isn't dead is because i stepped in to prevent it. The angel looked suitably contrite, I'm terribly sorry to be late, but it really wasn't my fault, I was on my way here when I developed a mechanical problem in my right wing. . . .Better late than never. . .That's where you're wrong, never is not the opposite of late, the opposite of late is too late, retorted cain."

The book is a delight and has something for everyone. Like the Bible, there's lots of murder, juicy sex scenes (heterosexual, homosexual, incestuous), war, crime, philosophy, and adventure. Unlike the Bible, there is also a good deal of humor.

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