Cain by José Saramago (2009)
“The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn’t understand us, and we don’t understand him.”
After killing his brother, Cain, is condemned to walk on the earth for eternity. He is lead from one major event in the Old Testament to an other, while witnessing the wickedness of God.
Cain is the last novel the Nobel Prize winner wrote before his death, and it is hard to not read it as a personal argument with God. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t an interesting or good book. I really enjoyed reading it, probably because I always teach the kids about God’s bad side in the Old Testament.
Another thing which stuck with me after reading the book, was the style. The first letter in the sentences were written with capital letters, the rest not. And the chapters didn’t have any paragraphs. At first it was hard to get used to, but it totally fits with the story and makes it more intriguing.
I kept comparing the book to the Testament of Mary because of the obvious Bible retelling, and I definitely liked Cain better. I think it is because Saramago dared to be personal and controversial and went a long way with the interpretation and retelling of the famous Bible stories. And the ending is brilliant.
This is the third book by Saramago that I have read, and my favourite. I definitely must read the Gospel According to Jesus Christ one day.
““What if they get out? Go on a rampage? Start breeding, then the population spirals out of control – like those big green rabbits?”
“That would be a problem,” said Crake. “But they won’t get out. Nature is to zoos as God is to churces.”
“Meaning what?” said Jimmy. He wasn’t paying close attention, he was worrying about the ChickieNobs and wolvogs. Why is it he feels some line has been crossed, some boundary transgressed? How much is too much, how far is too far?”
Jimmy, or the Snowman as the Crakers call him, is the only man left after the human population has been wiped out due to a virus. The Crakers are a specie designed in a gene-lab by Crake; they are perfect and lack the destructive tendencies of mankind. Snowman tells them stories about how Oryx and Crake made the world. But although the world is free of men, there are other human-made dangers, like the wolvogs and pigoons – enormous pigs with human organs and cells.
While telling the story in the present day, we also get a glimpse of what Jimmy’s life used to be, and who Crake is. The second book in the trilogy, the Year of the Flood, happens at the same time as Oryx & Crake, but at a different place in the same city, and with Ren and Toby as the narrators. MaddAddam starts when Jimmy meets Ren and Toby and then finally takes the story forward. You also get to learn the story of Zeb. The stories of the characters are really fascinating and definitely my favourite part of the trilogy. I also like how MaddAddam is built-up like a bible for the Crakers, and I just adored the Crakers, especially Blackbeard.
I read the trilogy as a critique of how the humans are abusing the planet’s resources and how the technology will destroy us all if we aren’t careful. And it is (of course) set in a totalitarian state. I have read a couple of dystopian novels and this trilogy is high on my list of favourites. Thanks to a week on the couch, I read them all in a couple of days and they turned into some pretty vivid dreams.
I read Oryx and Crake when it was published 10 years ago, but I felt that I needed to reread it after reading the Year of the Flood. What I really like is that it doesn’t matter which one you read first. And I found it easier to read the Year of the Flood first, then Oryx and Crake. Although MaddAddam has a recap of the two other books, I strongly recommend to read them!
Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors, and I’m glad I still haven’t read her most famous works, so I have something to look forward to. She’s also one of my favourites for the Nobel prize.
“And what if a blue dog really existed? It would be fucking amazing to have one. And if it had a puppy, would it be born blue, too? If he could bark and eat, what would a blue dog eat? Blue food? And if he got ill, would he take blue medicine?”
The narrator is a schizophrenic who is a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Brazil. He spends his days thinking, and conversing with his imaginary friends, Rimbauld and Baudelaire.
I had a hard time following the train of thoughts of a mad man. What was real and what wasn’t? There were parts, mainly stand-alone sentences which I really enjoyed reading, but most of the time I kept counting the pages I had left to read. Thankfully, it’s just a mere 109 pages long.
I have a feeling that this is a book you’ll either love or hate. Or rather, understand or not getting the point. And I’m definitely one of those who don’t get it.
Cannie discovers that her ex-boyfriend is writing a column about their love-life in a popular magazine. Most furious is she about the way he is describing her big body. Humiliated, she realises that she is not over Bruce yet and tries to get him to stop writing about her and get him back at the same time.
Cannie, why are you so angry? I definitely didn’t like her personality, and although she is meant to be snarky, I found her whiny and bitter. Yet there were many things I could identify with (and I guess every girl can). Still, she isn’t the kind of heroine I need or want.
Not my favourite genre by far, I read it because I had it up to here with wars and other sad and difficult topics I usually read about. It is an entertaining story for sure, sort of a modern fairytale and quite predictable. Love the cover and I loved the author’s introduction more than Cannie.
“If you kill with homemade bombs it’s called terrorism, and if you kill with machine guns and hunger it’s called defense. It’s a play on words, isn’t it? Do you know what the difference is? We don’t care. But your people piss with fear without a machine gun in their hands.”
Felix Chacaltana is the district prosecutor in Ayacucho when a burnt out body is discovered during the Carnival. Is it simply a murder or is the resurrection of the terrorist organisation Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path)? The Prosecutor has a difficult time getting the police to investigate the murder properly.
The setting is certainly interesting and as the author states in his note, most of the events in the book are true, they are just set in a fictional setting. And in the beginning it was certainly interesting to read about the prosecutor’s struggles with the corrupt and lazy police. But as the story evolved, I was less impressed. I’m not sure why, but I think the main reason is that it just turned messy and rushed. I wish it would have stuck to the path with the terrorist and the resurrection theme.
Yet Roncagliolo does a wonderful job portraying the brutality of both sides of the conflict. And that even the best of men can have the worst intentions.
A Very Short Introduction
How did the Great War start? And what happened?
I was going to teach my super smart class about World War I and I knew that I needed to come prepared to class, so I bought this small book of 156 pages and used it prepare myself.
It gives a very good overview of the reasons the different countries had to enter the war and a good overview of what happened in the war, both on the battlefields and back home in the major participating countries. But I missed a couple of things when reading it. Most importantly a simple time line because there are a lot of dates to keep track of. And then I would have liked more pictures, maps and statistics.
And although it didn’t answer all my kids’ question like what did Japan do and how did it go with Serbia, it definitely made me able to do a much better job teaching the subject.
- Oxford University Press has published many Very Short Introductions books on a whole range of topics and I will probably pick of more of them on topics I feel I know too little about.