Review: ‘The Elephant’s Journey’ by José Saramago


Illustration: Tomiris

Illustration: Tomiris

The Elephant’s Journey was first published as A Viagem do Elefante in 2008, translated and published in English in 2010. It is the second-to-last novel published during Saramago’s lifetime. Saramago was born in Portugal in 1922, and published his first text in 1947, and his body of work includes novels, poems and plays. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, and is considered to be one of the most important European writers of the last century. Saramago died in 2010, having published over twenty-five works during his lifetime.


The Elephant’s Journey is the second novel I’ve read by Portuguese writer José Saramago, and he is fast becoming a favourite of mine. Although I am sadly unable to read his works in the original language, even in translation his writing style is distinct and strong. Like his earlier novel Blindness, this novel is written almost entirely without breaks in the text, and without the punctuation of direct speech. While neither technique is particularly innovative, Saramago uses both effectively to draw the reader further into the narrative he builds around the novel’s protagonist, the elephant Solomon (later, Suleiman).