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What if, one day, Europe was to crack along the length of the Pyrenees, separating the Iberian peninsula? In Saramago's lovely fable, the new island is sent spinning, like a great stone raft, towards the Azores. While the authorities panic and tourists and investors flee, three men, two women and a dog are drawn together by portents that burden them with a bemusing sense of responsibility. Travelling at first packed into a car, then into a wagon, they take to the road to explore the limits of their now finite land, adrift in a world made new by this radical shift in perspective.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781860467219
ISBN-10: 1860467210
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 17mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: The Harvill Press
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 1-Jun-2000
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » From noted Portuguese writer Saramago (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, 1993, etc.), a playful "what-if" tale - what if the earth were to crack and the Iberian Peninsula started sailing across the Atlantic? - that also slyly satirizes current European and international politics. As in all good fables, the catastrophe here is preceded by ominous but random happenings that lend an air of bogus authority and mystery to a story that is to be enjoyed as much for itself as for the potshots it takes. In Portugal, Joana Carda, who has just left her husband, scratches the ground with an elm bough, and the line cannot be erased; the famous barkless dogs of Cerbere suddenly begin to bark; Joaquim Sassa throws a heavy stone into the sea that lands far out of sight; Jose Anai??o, out on a morning stroll, is followed by a flock of starlings; a widow, Maria Guavaira, finds an old sock that endlessly unravels; and in Spain, aging Pedro Orce gets up from his chair and feels the earth tremble beneath his feet. Next, cracks appear along the Pyrenees mountains, and, as they rapidly widen, Spain and Portugal are soon cut off from the rest of Europe. Tourists panic; local peasants occupy the now-empty hotels. As the peninsula heads out into the Atlantic, abandoning the disputed Rock of Gibraltar along the way, politicians make ineffectual statements and vague promises of help; European youths, declaring "We are Iberians too," riot in sympathy. And while the peninsula just misses the Azores, seems bound for Newfoundland, then alters its course and sails south, the long thread that Maria had unraveled somehow brings the apparent prognosticators of the event together. By car and then by wagon, they wander across the land, finding love and adventure along the way, as well as an understanding of "how all things in this world are linked together." A splendidly imagined epic voyage on an unlikely ship manned by political trimmers as well as the loving in heart. A fabulous fable. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Jose Saramago

Born in Portugal in 1922, Jose Saramago was one of the most important writers of his generation. He was in his fifties when he came to prominence as a novelist with the publication of Baltasar & Blimunda. A huge body of work followed, which included plays, poetry, short stories, non-fiction and over a dozen novels, including Blindness which was made into an acclaimed film. He has been translated into more than forty languages, and in 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died on 18 June 2010, shortly after the Portuguese publication of Cain. Giovanni Pointiero, formerly Reader in Latin-American Literature in the University of Manchester, was Saramago's regular English translator. His translation of The Gospel according to Jesus Christ was awarded the Teixeira-Gomes Prize for Portuguese translation. He was also the principal English translator of the works of Clarice Lispector. He died in 1996.

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