Jose Saramago’s writing style (without regard for much capitalization and punctuation) takes some getting used to. Once you have read a few pages though, you will be whisked into his world which is irreverent, cynical, satirical and poignant, all at the same time. He wrote in Portuguese and had translators’ gift us his magic in English. He was a communist, won the #Nobel Prize in #Literature in 1998, and died in 2010. His best #book is Blindness, but The Elephant’s Journey continues to be a favourite.⠀
The story is based on historical fact but the narrative is fictional. In 1551, King João III of Portugal gifted an elephant to his cousin, the Archduke of Austria. The elephant (Solomon) and his mahout (named Subhro) make the journey from Lisbon to Vienna via Valladolid (Spain), then to Genoa by ship, and then across the Alps from Venice to Innsbruck, and then by river to Vienna. In those times, the people of these parts had not seen an elephant, and as the story unfolds, we are introduced to characters who are both intimidated and awestruck by the #elephant. ⠀
We are introduced to villagers, priests, militiamen in different topographies including the mists and snows of the Alps. Solomon is made to participate in a fake miracle at Padua; and then actually performs a miracle by not trampling a baby in Vienna.⠀
Subhro (I see a Bengali reference here) the mahout, is resourceful, and aware of his importance in this mission. Even though he is dedicated to Solomon, he is an opportunist and makes money off simple-minded miracle-seekers. Subhro says that he is a Christian but he talks about #Ganesh and displays a fair knowledge of #Hinduism. These are digs at religion, especially Christianity, and both village folk and priests are shown in unexposed light.⠀
Saramago himself is present as the ubiquitous narrator, with reflective statements and cynical observations. Even while being scornful, he maintains a light-heartedness which gives an extra dose of memorability.⠀
If you have not read #Saramago, or this 200-page literary gem, give it a shot: it will warm the cockles of your heart. #review #theelephantsjourney #fiction ...