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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Good Words: 'The Elephant's Journey'

The late Nobel Prize-winning Jose Saramago left us one more tale before his death this summer. The Elephant's Journey is a fable and mediation based on the real trip of an elephant from Lisbon to Vienna, a gift from King João III of Portugal to the Archduke Maximilian in 1551.

The huge contrast between the elephant's moving gestures and the oneupmanship practiced by many of the humans in this novel are portrayed with humor and knowing, wry compassion. Saramago, even in a scant 224 pages, also divulges in long asides whenever he feels like it, and often comes up with gems. To wit:

... but you know how it is with writing, one word often brings along another in its train simply because they sound good together, even if this means sacrificing respect for levity and ethics for aesthetics ... It is in this and other ways, almost without our realising it, that we make so many enemies in life.
Oh talk about a good point. Especially among those of us to whom quick retorts are not natural and who will never be quite with it.

Although I've not yet finished the book, let it be said now that Saramago left us with a gentle and wise farewell.


  1. I look forward to reading this ,I ve like and loathe some of his books on whole liked them ,there is another novel a biblical saga cain was published last year in portugal ,he was a amazing guy even starting his blog and speaking his mind late in life and a great loss to the world of writing

  2. I wasn't certain what to make of this one at first but towards the end, it started clicking into place. Finished it this afternoon and think it's worthwhile.

    Looking forward to what you think of it, Stu. I may not have a complete review written until later in the week because I want to get it sorted out right and not be glib.

  3. I'm planning to read this one next. I hope that I enjoy it :-)

  4. I hope you do get to read it because I'd enjoy reading what you think of it.