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Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published October by Editorial Caminho first published More Details Original Title. Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about A Viagem do Elefante , please sign up.

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Start your review of A Viagem do Elefante. This is the story of the book. Knowing it will not spoil the enjoyment of it one whit, if you do choose to read it. The major characters are the elephant Solomon and his mahour Subhro.

The story is of the King, what happens on the journey to the officers who escort the elephant and at the end of the journey, the Archduke. Maximillian arrogantly r This is the story of the book. Maximillian arrogantly renames the elephant from Solomon to Suleiman and the mahout to an inappropriate "Fritz". The end is both picaresque and that of a fairy tale.

It is two years after the elephant has arrived in Vienna and he has died. They have cut him up for souvenirs and umbrella stands and the mahout has been apid off, generously, by the Archduke.

The last we see of Subhro, he has reclaimed his name, is riding off on a mule, on a journey he never completes trailing a donkey who bears a wooden box containing all the possessions that mahout possesses.

The king was very sad but the queen refusing to be read the contents of the letter locked herself in her room and spent the rest of the day in tears. It is a beguiling book, the language is so beautiful, it is witty and humouros but it is not a great book, just a really enjoyable one.

A fine one to finish a year of reading on. Notes on reading the book. A Latin text I never really got to grips with. So far, the writing is charmingly amusing, sly and pointed and wonderful in it's own right, never mind the story which I am also enjoying. View all 12 comments. That idea, though not that exact expression, was in my mind from the beginning of The Elephant's Journey. Riding through Portugal, and then across Spain, boarding a ship to cross the Mediterranean, then onwards through Northern Italy, the Alps, Austria, all while perched on top of an elephant must have seemed like a royal position in those days.

Our subhro enjoys his status, high above the army of accompanying soldiers like a capital on the top of a column. One particular slow day on the hazardous journey, a daydream temporarily carries subhro far off into the land of heroic deeds where he imagines himself being lauded by the entire Austrian court, but soon reality revealed itself to him exactly as it was, himself hunched on the elephant's back, almost invisible beneath the snow, the desolate image of the defeated conqueror, demonstrating yet again how close the tarpeian rock is to the capitoline hill, on the latter they crown you with laurels and from the former they fling you down, all glory vanished, all honour lost, to the place where you will leave your wretched bones.

Saramago wrote this book quite late in his life and I wondered if he had doubts or regrets about what he had achieved in his writing career or if he worried about the security of his position as the leading Portuguese writer of the twentieth century. I didn't wonder for long, as he went on to say: The skeptics are quite right when they say that the history of humanity is one long succession of missed opportunities.

Fortunately, thanks to the inexhaustible generosity of the imagination, we erase faults, fill in lacunae as best we can, forge passages through blind alleys that will remain stubbornly blind, and invent keys to doors that have never had locks. Saramago is very good at inventing keys, and with them, he opens a succession of doors in the narrative; I imagine him blithely doing the same throughout his life.

And the we is sometimes the narrator and the reader, sometimes the narrator and the characters, so that we, the readers, eventually become absorbed into the narrative and the we comes to be narrator, characters and readers, all rolled up in one; we are transformed in spite of ourselves, changed utterly on reading his words because Saramago believes in the transforming power of fiction: 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.

I say to you, it is better to be a novelist, a fiction writer, a liar. Perhaps not an outright liar, but clever and inventive when it comes to filling in lacunae; while describing the beauty of the mountains through which the elephant travels, and clearly never having visited the location as any writer worthy of the name would surely do he implies , Saramago wriggles neatly out of any precise description: words fail me , he says instead, with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek.

So, if he is championing the fictional account of this factual journey over the historical one, he does it with an entire army of nods and winks: So far, fritz as subhro is called by the Austrians has been a vital character at every turn, be it dramatic or comic, even at the risk of cutting a ridiculous figure whenever a pinch of the ludicrous was felt to be necessary or merely tactically advisable for the narrative, putting up with humiliations without a word of protest or a flicker of emotion, careful not to let it be known that without him, there would be no one to deliver the goods, or in this case, to take the elephant to Vienna.

This book is a feast of verbal treats from the end to the beginning where, like Tristram Shandy , the narrative opens with a conversation in a marital bed, a conversation in which a monarch worries that a fall from grace can come very swiftly View all comments. Here is a wonderful story, especially, I think, if you have a deep connection to animals. The voice is third-person historical and wonderfully relaxed and unrushed. It is a novelist's voice embellishing on historical fact: It's hard to understand just why the archduke Maximilian should have decided to make such a j Here is a wonderful story, especially, I think, if you have a deep connection to animals.

It is a novelist's voice embellishing on historical fact: It's hard to understand just why the archduke Maximilian should have decided to make such a journey at this time of year [winter], but that is how it is set down in history, as an incontrovertible, documented fact, supported by historians and confirmed by the novelist, who must be forgiven for taking certain liberties with names, not only because it is his right to invent, but also because he had to fill in certain gaps so that the sacred coherence of the story was not lost.

Omniscience is avoided. This is especially evident in the narrator's refusal or inability to enter the thoughts of Solomon. The animal is thus shown a certain respect and the limitations of the voice are clearly indicated: We do not know what he [Solomon] is thinking, but, in the midst of these Alps, we can be sure of one thing, he is not a happy elephant.

As I read about the passage of the archduke and his cortege in their passage through the snowy Alps I was filled with foreboding. That's how affecting the writing is here. One is entirely taken up with the plight of this elephant, an animal of the tropics, being forced through a snowy rocky landscape. Saramago uses a run on sentence style, stringing long passages together with commas, and disdaining standard capitalization. This has the clever effect of slowing the reader down, almost as a caesura in verse, making one concentrate more intently on how the language is deployed.

Saramago was both a Communist and a famous atheist. His send up of the Catholic Church, its cynicism and hypocrisy is quite amusing and is by itself worth the price of the book. Especially amusing is the "miracle" cynically wrought in Padua by an ecclesiastic of that city. Solomon is coerced to kneel by the doors of the basilica, which puts the fear of God into the populace, which also kneels.

This story then precedes Solomon along his route. The Archduke is not amused by the throngs of the pious.

One bit of interesting subtext occurs when the Archduke and his cortege make their way through the dangerous Brenner Pass. For those familar with W. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn you know that the Brenner Pass is central to that book and the author offers some of his enigmatic photographs of it. When Saramago's narrative reaches the Brenner pass, he begins to discuss the difficulties of descriptive writing, then says: It's a shame that photography had not yet been invented in the sixteeth century, because the solution would have been easy as pie, we would simply have included a few photos from the period, especially if taken from a helicopter and readers would then have every reason to consider themselves amply rewarded and to recognize the extraordinary informative nature of our enterprise.

Is this a swipe at Sebald, who, according to some—Saramago may have been one—cheats by using photos? It would certainly seem so but this is speculation.

Unless some lucky scholar hits paydirt, I'm afraid we'll never know. View all 13 comments. What can a King saying from Portugal offer to an Emperor Austria for example as a gift worthy of its greatness? What's going on? An elephant? And here is the pachyderm which has just passed with his cornac "in Cingalese - elephant herd chief", two years in total forgetting in the Portuguese court, en route to Vienna. The novel describes the journey of the elephant and its escort through Castile, the Mediterranean coast, passing through Genoa and finally took the route of the Alps.

The story i What can a King saying from Portugal offer to an Emperor Austria for example as a gift worthy of its greatness? The story is very interesting in the sense that it exposes the different relationships that bind the King, the military, the church and the "Other"; even prepared to the misusing to Saramago's current graphic structure no paragraphs, no dialogues, little punctuation Nevertheless, I liked the characters, and I was looking forward to the end.


A Viagem Do Elefante by Jose Saramago

It was first published in with an English translation in This elephant 's journey from Lisbon to Vienna was witnessed and remarked upon by scholars, historians, and ordinary people. 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 , the royal guard, Soloman and Subhro cross a continent riven by the Reformation and civil wars. They brave the Alps and the terrifying Isarco and Brenner Passes ; they sail from Rosas across the Mediterranean Sea and later up the Inn River elephants, it turns out, are natural sailors.


A Viagem do Elefante

Published by Companhia das Letras. Seller Rating:. About this Item: Companhia das Letras. Condition: Good. A copy that has been read, but remains in clean condition.

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