The Elephant's Journey: Book summary and reviews of The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago

The Elephant's Journey

by Jose Saramago

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2010
    224 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. The elephant’s journey from Lisbon to Vienna was witnessed and remarked upon by scholars, historians, and ordinary people. Out of this material, José Saramago has spun a novel already heralded as "a triumph of language, imagination, and humor" (El País).

Solomon and his keeper, Subhro, begin in dismal conditions, forgotten in a corner of the palace grounds. When it occurs to the king and queen that an elephant would be an appropriate wedding gift, everyone rushes to get them ready: Subhro is given two new suits of clothes and Solomon a long overdue scrub.

Accompanied by the Archduke, his new wife, and the royal guard, our unlikely heroes traverse a continent riven by the Reformation and civil wars. They make their way through the storied cities of northern Italy: Genoa, Piacenza, Mantua, Verona, Venice, and Trento, where the Council of Trent is in session. They brave the Alps and the terrifying Isarco and Brenner Passes; they sail across the Mediterranean Sea and up the Inn River (elephants, it turns out, are natural sailors). At last they make their grand entry into the imperial city. The Elephant’s Journey is a delightful, witty tale of friendship and adventure.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"This charming tale of an elephant given by the 16th-century Portuguese king João III to the Archduke of Austria has much to recommend it, despite its being a minor work from the late Nobel laureate." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Solomon's trek across Europe, across mountains and rivers, accompanied by his Hindu keeper and a host of other retainers and attendants, is followed in this extremely amusing, historically resonant, fablelike, and technically challenging narrative." - Booklist

"While Saramago’s tale veers into tedium now and then, it nevertheless firmly establishes the pachyderm in our hearts along with all the other great animal heroes in literature." - Library Journal

"A triumph of language, imagination and humor." - El Pais

. "A Quixote-like journey, in the company of porters, guards, priests, officials, lords and ladies, across a Europe riven by the Reformation and civil wars. And at the same time, a meditation, a reflection - typically Saramagian - on humanity, on its flaws and its weaknesses, on power, on friendship..." - La Repubblica

. "[Saramogo's] funniest, earthiest, most tongue-in-cheek book...[It] transforms a travel narrative into a dazzling human comedy, full of laughter, feeling, and wisdom." - Le Monde

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Author Information

Jose Saramago Author Biography

Photo: José Frade

José Saramago was born in 1922 in Azinhaga, Portugal, the son of rural laborers. He grew up in great poverty in Lisbon, and was forced to abandon school at the age of 12 in order to earn a living. Saramago was spent 2 years training as a technician,did a number of manual jobs before becoming a journalist, translator, and eventually a writer . In 1969 he joined the Communist Party of Portugal, which was forbidden during the military dictatorship, but he also criticized the party. In the 1970s Saramago supported himself mostly by translation works, and since 1979 he has devoted himself entirely to writing.

Following the publication of his most controversial book, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, he faced intense criticism from members of the country's Catholic community, and ...

... Full Biography

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