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The Elephant's Journey

A José Saramago book, this takes the author on a story of Solomon, an elephant, and Subhro, his mahout (elephant keeper in Hindi). It begins with Solomon and Subhro in Portugal in 1551. King João of Portugal (in English, John I of Portugal) decides that an elephant is the perfect wedding gift for the archduke of Austria. One reviewer writes that, "In his understanding of people, he brings something very rare - a disillusion that allows affection and admiration, a clear-sighted forgiveness." The novel is narrated by Saramago, and it is seamlessly interwoven with the different perspectives of the characters, from Subhro to the archduke to the man who sells oxen. Solomon and Subhro "journey on foot from Lisbon to Valladolid, to Catalonia, by sea to Genoa, on to Venice, over the Alps." The narrative is "whimsical yet compulsive readable" and it is an all together great read. Whereas other Saramago novels such as Blindness / SeeingThe Cave are set in a dystopian world, The Elephant's Journey is unique in the fact that it takes us back in time. Also, the plot is extremley easy and simple to follow, which makes this novel not only enjoyable but it lets the reader enjoy the complexity and beauty of Saramago's writing. "It must be said that history is always selective, and discriminatory too, selecting from life only what society deems to be historical and scorning the rest, which is precisely where we might find the true explanation of facts, of things, of wretched reality itself. In truth, I say to you, it is better to be a novelist, a fiction writer, a liar." (180) Saramago has this way of twisting his opinions throughout the story without letting on that he is digressing from the plot. I have read three of his other novels, and I must say, this is either my favorite or second-favorite among them. Rating: ★★★★

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