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This is a skeptic' s journey into the meaning of God and of human existence. At once an ironic rendering of the life of Christ and a beautiful novel, Saramago' s tale has sparked intense discussion about the meaning of Christianity and the Church as an institution. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero.


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This is a skeptic' s journey into the meaning of God and of human existence. At once an ironic rendering of the life of Christ and a beautiful novel, Saramago' s tale has sparked intense discussion about the meaning of Christianity and the Church as an institution. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero.

30 review for The Gospel According to Jesus Christ

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aduren

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Jose Saramago is atheist. This should be enough warning for everyone that desires to read the book. It is very explicit and so religion it’s exposed at its weakest and God as a character is revealed. I come from a Roman-Catholic background but I still wanted to read it, ever since the Gnostic gospel where Jesus childhood is revealed and he changes from a mischief bad behave kid to the Jesus from the new testament I wanted to see Saramago’s take on it. Saramago is such a master of words that he m Jose Saramago is atheist. This should be enough warning for everyone that desires to read the book. It is very explicit and so religion it’s exposed at its weakest and God as a character is revealed. I come from a Roman-Catholic background but I still wanted to read it, ever since the Gnostic gospel where Jesus childhood is revealed and he changes from a mischief bad behave kid to the Jesus from the new testament I wanted to see Saramago’s take on it. Saramago is such a master of words that he makes every bit of faith look totally illogical. It does not take long for us to find out that Saramago is extremely sharp at finding all contradictions on roman-catholic religion. In the novel God seems to be the greediest of all gods, the vainer, the more detach from his people. Detached even from his son as he appeared to him in different shapes, only in the meeting at the lake did he appear to him as a man. God does not command, he orders, he tricks his own son into following his plan to the end. Ultimately Jesus’s betrayal was his last act of martyrdom. The devil is given the name of Pastor. This has caused some confusion for English readers. When I was reading the book with some Jesuits this person contacted them just to let them know (as a good Christian I assume) how blasphemous was to name the devil pastor. It took me 30 minutes to explain that person that Pastor does not means priest, but rather it comes from the Latin word “pastor” meaning shepherd. Now did he use the word shepherd on purpose? Yes, what is the devil but a shepherd of men leading them to hell, just as Jesus is a fisherman of men. In the book Pastor is the most humanitarian, the more repented, so repented that when asked to be forgiven a clear distinction between right and wrong has to be made so God decides not to forgive him because what is a good God without evil? Saramago decides there cannot be one without the other. The characters in the book are fascinating; my Jesuits friends and I laughed and enjoy this book. There were no doubts in our head by the end of the book. We did not feel like it shook our religion or affected the way we perceived God. This book was after all under fiction so everyone that is easily offended stay away from this book and stop complaining about blasphemy and crying around like little kids. Saramago is a Nobel price winner and foremost a grown man that is entitled to his own opinions. This one of his finest, if not the best, of his book in my opinion, a must read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    This is a bold fearless work and definitely not for the faint-hearted readers. I am not surprised that when this was originally published in 1991, it created lots of controversies with the Catholic Church condemning Jose Saramago for harboring anti-religious vision and his own Portuguese government asking the European Literary Prize to remove this from its shortlist because of the book’s offensive content to religion. Despite this book’s existence, Saramago won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literatur This is a bold fearless work and definitely not for the faint-hearted readers. I am not surprised that when this was originally published in 1991, it created lots of controversies with the Catholic Church condemning Jose Saramago for harboring anti-religious vision and his own Portuguese government asking the European Literary Prize to remove this from its shortlist because of the book’s offensive content to religion. Despite this book’s existence, Saramago won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature. This is my third Saramago (Blindness, Double were my others) and my fourth book in what seems to be an unnamed genre: re-telling of the life of Jesus Christ. Last year I read The Last Temptation of Christ (1960) by Nikos Kazantzakis and Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (2005) and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana (2008) by Anne Rice. In my “book,” Temptation came first and I am glad I read it first so the idea of twisting the canons by a mere mortal who lived in our generation is not new (translation: not shocking). For me, Anne Rice’s books now seem to be just afterthoughts of these two works. But why re-tell the life of Jesus Christ? Because of the mysterious gap in his younger years? Because of the weakening fate of the believers? Because more and more people are now turning into atheism or other religions? This depends on what we believe or what each of us was taught to believe when we were younger. However, since this book is about the life of Jesus Christ who’s being venerated by more than half of the people in the world, then I don’t want to dwell on religion. I am leaving this kind of discussion on faith to some other forums like my review on my long staying currently-read book: The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Edition that I started reading in September last year and currently in The Book of Ezekiel and hope to finish all books before the end of this year. I picked this book because I loved the two works of Saramago. Also, it is Lenten Season and I thought that a Nobel laureate like him would not blaspheme, paint false pictures or mock Jesus Christ. Yes, he did those in this book. I almost wanted to say that this should rather be called The Gospel According to Jose Saramago but for me, it is disrespectful to a great mind like him. After all, he is already dead, was an atheist and a writer so it is not nice for a mere literary enthusiast like me to criticize a dead person (who can no longer defend himself), argue with his beliefs (as he did not believe on any god and said to be a pessimist) and he can invoke poetic devise (twisting facts for the sake of telling a grappling story). In other words, he had or has all the right to come up with a work like this and his cries for oppression due to censorship when the Portuguese government or the Catholic Church called for banning of this are, in my opinion, all uncalled for. Jesus having sex with Mary Magdalene in the whorehouse without the blessing of marriage. The demon asking Jesus to use a sheep for sexual release. An angel posing as a beggar during the Annunciation scene. The same beggar-angel walking with Mary to Bethlehem provoking jealousy to the doubting Joseph. Three shepherds instead of 3 kings visiting the family in the Bethlehem. Joseph crucified and dying on the cross mistaken as a zealot. Jesus seeing God in the desert. Jesus riding on the boat with the God and the Devil. These are some of the shocking deviations from the story that Saramago imagined and incorporated to come up with an “irreverent, profound, skeptical, funny, heretical, deeply philosophical, provocative and compelling work.” (Source: Harold Robbin who says that this is his favorite work of Saramago. So far, I agree). So, how do you rate a book with a disgusting content yet beautifully written? Think J. G. Ballard’s Crash, Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom or Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho or even Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. The first time I read them, I was totally disgusted and hated them to the max. Now I realized I missed the whole point. They are really written to shock so their authors can bring the message to the table. So, what message does The Gospel According to Jesus Christ want us to realize? For me, it is beyond further humanizing Jesus Christ. It is more what choices, regardless whether he is man, god or a their combination, he had before he said yes to his Father for being the sacrificial lamb to propagate Christianity in the world. But more than the message, one thing that I enjoyed reading this book is its storytelling style. Many parts are totally hilarious and that style when Saramago directly addressing the reader and he opens your thought by throwing contemporary works and philosophy is just awesome. I have never seen this in any of the works of novelists whose books I so far sampled. I am rating this with a 4 (I really liked it) but will probably not recommend this to anyone. I'd rather that they decide for themselves. If they are as open-minded as my friend and reading-buddy Angus, then I would say go. If not, then check how strong is your faith as Saramago can sway you to question your long-held beliefs. It's like having an clever, sweet-talker and well-read atheist in your Bible reading group come one Sunday and he starts questioning what is written in the gospel but he is not obnoxious because he knows what he is talking about. If you are still in Cathecism 101, don't ever dare open this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SLIP SOME BENZEDRINE INTO THIS GUY’S COFFEE This is a very peculiar novel. I’m not quite sure what the hell it is. Some of it reads like deleted scenes from Monty Python’s Life of Brian Now be off with you, said God, for I have work to do and can’t stay here chatting all day Or Mary : Is there any proof that it was the Lord’s seed which engendered my first-born? Angel : Well, it’s a delicate matter, and what you’re demanding is nothing less than a paternity test. The rest of it I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SLIP SOME BENZEDRINE INTO THIS GUY’S COFFEE This is a very peculiar novel. I’m not quite sure what the hell it is. Some of it reads like deleted scenes from Monty Python’s Life of Brian Now be off with you, said God, for I have work to do and can’t stay here chatting all day Or Mary : Is there any proof that it was the Lord’s seed which engendered my first-born? Angel : Well, it’s a delicate matter, and what you’re demanding is nothing less than a paternity test. The rest of it is a whole lot of mumbling, bumbling, fumbling, irritating, rambling, moaning, groaning, huffing and puffing by a narrator who appears to be some ancient old codger who is a shoo-in for the world finals of the Most Boring Man in the World contest. And the rewrite of the familiar tale of Jesus is so comprehensive that half way through the book Jesus is only 13 and two-thirds through he is still only 18. So it's very different. AUTHOR VERSUS READER – DING DING, ROUND ONE Is there any need for this or are we in the land of pretentious literary wankery? Jose Saramago serves us up massive slabs of undifferentiated prose, page after page – he ends a paragraph with extreme reluctance, it’s like pulling teeth with Jose, it’s like asking John Lee Hooker to change chords. Every paragraph is one or two pages long. As for indicators of dialogue, forget it, pal, you’re on your own. The dialogue is run into the giant paragraphs as part of the ongoing flow, and the lines of dialogue are not separated by anything helpful like he said or she said, and not even by full stops, only commas, maybe there was a full stop shortage in Portugal in the late 1980s. I never heard about that, you might think it would have made the news. (“Crates of full stops are still being held up at Lisbon airport as the dispute enters its 9th week”). Anyway, these stylistic choices make the reading a whole lot more annoying and turgid than it might be. AUTHOR VERSUS READER – DING DING, ROUND TWO As well as being an old fart, the narrator is a misogynist – Joseph wondered if he should ask Mary if the pains were still there, but in the end said nothing, for we must not forget that this whole process is unclean from the moment of impregnation until the moment of birth, that horrific female organ, vortex and abyss, the seat of all the world’s evils, an inner labyrinth, blood, sweat, discharges, gushing waters, revolting afterbirth, dear God, how can you permit Your beloved children to be born from such impurity. WORLD’S MOST BORING MAN – A FEW EXAMPLES In the first place, there are Samaritans and Samaritans, which means that even at that time one swallow was not enough to make a summer, one needed two, that is to say, two swallows rather than summers, provided there is a fertile male and female and they have offspring. Suddenly a beggar appeared at the yard gate, a somewhat rare occurrence in this village where people were poor, a fact unlikely to have escaped the begging fraternity which had a nose for places where there were rich pickings for the asking, and this was certainly not the case here. As for possessions, the only thing Joseph and Job had in common was the number of sons. Job had seven sons and three daughters, while Joseph had seven sons and two daughters, giving the carpenter the advantage of having put one woman less into the world. And there’s no denying that it is one thing to feed two mouths, then a third, even if only indirectly during the first year, and quite another to find oneself saddled with a houseful of children who demand more and more food once they start growing. This narrator even knows perfectly well how dull he is! Four years hence, Jesus will meet God. This unexpected revelation, which is probably premature according to the rules of effective narration mentioned earlier, is simply intended to prepare the reader for some everyday scenes from pastoral life which will add little of substance to the main thread of our story, thus excusing any reader who might be tempted to jump ahead. WAIT – COULD IT BE THAT THIS NARRATOR IS SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE A VILLAGE ELDER FROM THE PERIOD? THAT WOULD EXPLAIN ALL THE BORING RAMBLING But no, this logical explanation is wrecked by comments like the following It may seem wholly inappropriate to put the complex theories of modern thinkers into the head of a Palestinian who lived so many years before Freud, Jung, Groddeck and Lacan appeared on the scene. … the only reason why that same Goliath did not become a basketball player is because he was born before his time Maybe this narrator is deliberately unstable, unpindownable. That would be a nice copout for Jose. Yes, it doesn’t make too much sense, but that’s all calculated. Why? Er, I dunno. THIS NOVEL MIGHT BE A TONGUE-IN-CHEEK ATHEIST SATIRE ON RELIGION Because the concept of God as dished out by the old-fart narrator is ridiculously primitive. It appears that in this world God has to negotiate his turf with other gods, and also, in this world, if you are ill it is because you have sinned. Both these ideas can be found in the Bible of course, but at least by the time of Jesus Jewish thought had evolved to the point where they believed that there were no other Gods except the one God. Here’s a few things the narrator says about God : For in truth, there are things God himself does not understand, even though he created them. As God warned Eve after she sinned, I will greatly multiply your suffering and your conception, in sorrow you will bring forth children, and after centuries of sorrow and suffering, God is not yet appeased and the agony goes on. At that time life was hard for the poor and God could not be expected to provide for everyone. Jesus interrogates Him at one point : Being God, You must know everything. Up to a certain point, only up to a certain point. What point is that? The point where it starts to become interesting to pretend that I know nothing. So sometimes it’s like this is all clearly a cheeky satire on religion, and sometimes the intractable concepts of God, salvation, sin and so on are presented as hard painful fact. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOSE SARAMAGO (Note sort of spoilers follow) The version of the story of Jesus we get here is a whole different thing from the actual gospels. The single event which dominates the first half of the book is something which is mentioned in only one Gospel (Matthew) and dismissed in three verses, the Massacre of the Innocents (When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old or under ). Joseph discovers Herod’s intention, rescues Mary and his own infant son Jesus, and after they make it back to Nazareth he is consumed by terrible remorse – why did he not warn the families of Bethlehem when he could? Why did he selfishly only rescue his own child? When Jesus learns about this he believes he takes on his father’s guilt, and he becomes obsessed. He leaves his family (aged 13) and joins up with a shepherd, then later with some fishermen where he discovers he has magical powers over fish (yes! I am not making this up, Saramago is, basing it on one of the gospel miracles. But in this book, Jesus makes his living for four years by controlling the fish in the Sea of Galilee!). Then Jesus meets Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, and they fall in love and start travelling round together as man and wife. He encounters God a couple of times and finally gets God to tell him that he is God’s one and only Son, and that God has a task for him, which is to die a martyr’s death so that his followers can spread the word. And what is the point of it all? To help me become God of more people says God. I thought Blindness was a stone 5 star classic, in which the difficult narration perfectly mirrored the desperate difficult plight of the characters, but this Gospel just struck me as very loopy and probably not worth the amount of concentration required to plough through all the unrelenting density.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    …thought, when all is said and done, as others and we ourselves have observed before, is like a great ball of thread coiled around itself, loose in places, taut in others, inside our head. It is impossible to know its full extent, one would have to unwind and then measure it, but however hard one tries or pretends to try, this cannot be done without assistance. One day, someone will come and tell us where to cut the cord that ties man to his navel and thought to its origin. José Saramago is exact …thought, when all is said and done, as others and we ourselves have observed before, is like a great ball of thread coiled around itself, loose in places, taut in others, inside our head. It is impossible to know its full extent, one would have to unwind and then measure it, but however hard one tries or pretends to try, this cannot be done without assistance. One day, someone will come and tell us where to cut the cord that ties man to his navel and thought to its origin. José Saramago is exactly that someone… He came to retell us the greatest story of all times… and to put our thoughts straight… or at least to make them less wry... …human words are like shadows, and shadows cannot explain light, and between shadow and light stands the opaque body from which words are born. Who is Jesus? Is he god or man? Or did he get stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea? For God he is just a cat’s paw and for Devil he is just a decoy. He tries to set rules but he is just a toy played in a higher heavenly games. …forgetting is all too easy, that is life. In the end any actual human life becomes forgotten and sinks into oblivion. And only myths and legends are eternal.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Or: Adolescent Jesus as Imagined by a Brilliant Authorial Atheist. That's unfair and reductive, however. Jose Saramago is an atheist, and the book does explore the parts of Jesus' life that most people pretend didn't exist (early adolescence to just before the time when he knew he had Messianic Son-of-God Superpowers), while at the same time gently but firmly questioning the nature of God, divinity, religious fervor manifesting itself as the oppression of others, bizarre religious ritual, and rel Or: Adolescent Jesus as Imagined by a Brilliant Authorial Atheist. That's unfair and reductive, however. Jose Saramago is an atheist, and the book does explore the parts of Jesus' life that most people pretend didn't exist (early adolescence to just before the time when he knew he had Messianic Son-of-God Superpowers), while at the same time gently but firmly questioning the nature of God, divinity, religious fervor manifesting itself as the oppression of others, bizarre religious ritual, and religious hypocrisy. The familiar Biblical story arc of Mary and Joseph's pilgrimage to Bethlehem for a census begins the story, though Saramago quickly dispenses with any notion that Mary was a virgin; she also has, in quick succession, many other children after Jesus' birth. (Both of these points, of course, are regarded as highly sacred/controversial in most Church law; it is essential that the Mother of God be stripped of her sexuality, and it has long been denied, mostly by the Catholic church, that Mary gave birth to any other children besides Jesus.) Throughout the novel, Jesus questions himself, his status as the son of God, the idea that he may be the Messiah of the Jewish people, and even God's own divine plan (revealed to Jesus as a stunning display of hubris, arrogance, and selfishness) - but always remains steadfast in his devotion to Mary Magdalene, with whom he lives freely and openly in a sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage, and whom he treats as equally as any man. (The book makes clear from page one the wretchedly inferior status of women in ancient Judaic times.) Saramago points out something that many modern Christians tend to forget, in their re-branding of God as a benevolent Father/Protector/Wish-Granter: the God of the ancient Jews and the Old Testament was a complete prick. If God singled you out for his special attention, that was just as frightening as his anger toward you. He pissed in Job's face, played keep-away with Moses and the Promised Land, turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt simply for showing a bit of momentary concern for her neighbors, and totally Punk'd Abraham about that whole son-sacrificing thing, with all the equal amounts of jealousy and wrath that Old Testament God is famous for. Of course Satan makes an appearance as a character, but Saramago fashions him as a much more interesting, multifaceted figure, possessed of depth, humor, and perhaps not as evil as he's often cast. He and God are posited to be old friends, not necessarily enemies, and in a co-dependent relationship of sorts in an arrangement to preserve the others' power. A very morally/religiously complex and long chapter is devoted to this balance of power, and for me was the climax of the novel - while God is telling Jesus of the horrific events that will occur in his name, Saramago devotes four pages of God's dialogue to alphabetically listing the names of martyred saints and the graphically violent ways in which they were killed for their belief. The prose is beautiful, but Saramago's authorial imprint and style is his distinct lack of quotation marks in dialogue, and lack of paragraph breaks during dialogue between characters. It can be difficult to follow, particularly in situations with more than two characters speaking. This is highly recommended for believers and non-believers alike.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Gomes

    The Vicar was not happy that I was reading, ‘Gospel according to Christ’ for he felt I would lose my faith, as though Faith is not a part of your inner being, but a handkerchief, one misplaces oh so casually. I am glad I disobeyed him, for this book only made me surer of my faith. This book shows Christ in all his Humanity, Humanity so naked, simple and beautiful that it humbles you to the core of your being. If I could say, to this so very Human Christ, ‘Let me but touch the hem of your robe, and The Vicar was not happy that I was reading, ‘Gospel according to Christ’ for he felt I would lose my faith, as though Faith is not a part of your inner being, but a handkerchief, one misplaces oh so casually. I am glad I disobeyed him, for this book only made me surer of my faith. This book shows Christ in all his Humanity, Humanity so naked, simple and beautiful that it humbles you to the core of your being. If I could say, to this so very Human Christ, ‘Let me but touch the hem of your robe, and I would be healed, or be whole again’.

  7. 4 out of 5

    MihaElla

    What I like the most about this day, 8 of March, in case GR posts a different date on this text, which is a great day as any other day to live, is that from early morning following my daily path on the strolling alleys (that is on the ground) but also under-ground (that is by metro) I have been hit by groups and groups of men, each carrying in their arms a big bucket of flowers (thin flowers but very beautiful with lots of colours). Most of them displayed wide smiles while maybe feeling themselv What I like the most about this day, 8 of March, in case GR posts a different date on this text, which is a great day as any other day to live, is that from early morning following my daily path on the strolling alleys (that is on the ground) but also under-ground (that is by metro) I have been hit by groups and groups of men, each carrying in their arms a big bucket of flowers (thin flowers but very beautiful with lots of colours). Most of them displayed wide smiles while maybe feeling themselves a bit different than yesterday because of this very soft, delicate but wondrous burden they were delivering to their places of work. I have enjoyed more than the other days of the week my morning journey to work. But the nicest surprise was when I entered the office building where was this bodyguard who handed over to me a beautiful yellow rose with a wish of happy woman’s day. He made my day! Happy to see and be a witness of such lovely gestures and, wishing that the message and the intentions behind this int’l celebration should not fade away without producing any positive change within our hearts and minds. This was supposed to be a review but as usual I am sliding on a different track and I reach nowhere 😉 which is a good direction still because I can further multiply my searches to other nowhere. With each new book of Saramago I feel myself enriched with a direct geometrical progression of my admiration towards his innate genius, very much alive and kicking its way to the endless limits. This writer is just simply Great. First and foremost, I am highly subjective towards him and will continue to be so. Hence, I am at a loss at establishing a hierarchy regarding which novel I loved most of the ones I read so far. Each one of his novels is a stand-alone masterpiece. The Gospel according to Jesus Christ is truly a shining brilliant jewel, maybe a bit more because it brought back to my mind memories long time put to sleep. Through quick mind flashes, I got back my childhood years spent together with my favorite maternal grandfather who used to keep my imagination at work by telling me about the Bible works. He got me so interested that I eventually took the Bible and read it, wholly. I was far too small of age back then and I cannot assert I did understand what may be of high relevance but I did enjoy it more because of the stories put in a more interpretative light by my grandfather. He did study four years of theology but he didn’t practice not even one day as a priest. His main passion was to be an automation engineer which is what he practiced his whole professional life. He was my first guide through this immense chapter in human life and I feel fortunate that he had enough of an open developed mind not to corrupt my own innocent undeveloped at that time mind with any preconceptions about religion. He always let me wander through the land of ideas without forcing any definitive answer on any questions that were posed. That is why now I cannot even say what is I am of, if I do belong to any group, of the few main known ones. I guess I take a bit from all of them, but just the part that feels integrative and positively affecting my whole being, mind, heart and soul. It was enchanting and challenging to read this novel. Once you overcome the ethical and theological confrontations, even before opening the first page of this gospel, though impossible not to recur from time to time, letting your eyes linger through the pages of this book proves to be an entirely awesome and pleasant reading. And not because it is about Jesus’s life, as obviously Jesus is the main hero of this gospel, but because it seems the book does not have (it never had, maybe) the irreverent purpose of contradicting what others have written in those long past times, and therefore does not dare to say that it did not happen what happened, putting instead a YES a NO, being Jesus this hero and his adventures well known from official religious books. Yes, it's easy to get close to him and to know his future, the good and miraculous things that have existed in his life, miracles such that some will give food, others will restore health, one that will defeat death. Yes, it's easy to change your ideas when you encounter unexpected, miraculous situations, lacking the power of an explanation by reason, but it's just as easy to keep intact your robust skepticism, sometimes characteristic to the golden age of youth, sometimes due to a closed mind. One of the very best parts from this jewel of book is the three-party interview between the God, the Devil and Jesus, on a boat, in the unknown middle of the sea, surrounded by a thick obscure fog, and which lasted for, more or less, just about 40 days, although for Jesus was just a matter of a couple of hours as for his own perception, especially that returned back on the shore the people waiting for him anxiously started to assault him with questions of what has happened there out in the sea. Although this meeting was highly interesting – definite one of the finest brushes of Saramago narrative genius – for these poor people (fishermen by profession) was a kind of no-work period, not that they went on strike purposely but more because they just couldn’t practice their daily job because the heavy tick wall of fog that made sailing a meeting with death, just in case of trying though… I think in a corner of my mind I also linked this with something I have been affected by recently. I did under-go the work assessment for previous year and I chose the attribute to qualify my performance as outstanding, top of top on the ladder. Upon final discussion with my boss, I was told that in order to deserve this I should be capable of walking on water, to which my sudden lament came uncontrollably: But I am not Jesus Christ‼ He was only One. My Saramago reading adventure continues with high gusto and I am already so very certain that it will bring further personal rewards that are not helped by words to be expressed. So happy he did have, even limited like all of us, existence on this Earth for some of us to feel overjoyed for reading his novels. ≪ Multa vreme vor ramane aici acesti copaci, si va sosi ziua cand se va fi pierdut memoria a ceea ce s-a intamplat, si atunci, cum oamenii vor pentru orice cate o explicatie, falsa sau adevarata, se vor inventa cateva istorii si legende, la inceput mai pastrand inca o oarecare relatie cu faptele, apoi din ce in ce mai slaba, pana cand totul se va transforma in pura fabula. Si va sosi alta zi cand copacii vor muri de batranete si vor fi taiati, si alta cand, din pricina unei autostrazi, sau a unei scoli, sau a unei case de locuit, sau a unui centru comercial, sau a unui fort militar, excavatoarele vor rascoli terenul si vor scoate la lumina zilei, pentru o noua nastere, scheletele care au zacut acolo vreme de doua mii de ani. Vor veni atunci antropologii si un profesor de anatomie va examina resturile, pentru ca, mai tarziu, sa anunte lumii scandalizate ca, de fapt, pe vremea aceea, oamenii erau rastigniti cu genunchii indoiti. Si cum lumea nu-l putea dezavua in numele stiintei, l-a detestat in numele esteticii. ≫

  8. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    Here I come to the end of the long road of suffering and moments of total glee. And now I find myself thinking and express myself in a way that to me is not common! Is that I get out of a difficult book, disturbing, captivating, led masterfully, needless to say, by José Saramago. Where to start? For my trouble. My difficulty entering this prose without room to breathe, only composed of commas without any dashes marking the dialogues without any paragraph. Also difficult to understand where the author Here I come to the end of the long road of suffering and moments of total glee. And now I find myself thinking and express myself in a way that to me is not common! Is that I get out of a difficult book, disturbing, captivating, led masterfully, needless to say, by José Saramago. Where to start? For my trouble. My difficulty entering this prose without room to breathe, only composed of commas without any dashes marking the dialogues without any paragraph. Also difficult to understand where the author was getting at, and therefore total surprise at this rewriting of the history of Jesus, yes, but subtle blend of dark humor, lightness, iconoclasm, deep psychology. Whereby continue? My deep pleasure to follow this family which everyone talks since the beginning of time, my family told me since my childhood. This Joseph, silent and - like all men of that era - distrustful of women, even of his own. This Mary, discreet but stubborn. This Jesus, rebellious and troubled teenager and a man in love with a woman and loving people. Pleasure mingled disorder, too, to discover the hidden side of things, like Saramago: a Joseph haunted by guilt - that of not being able to prevent in time the village of Bethlehem massacre toddlers - and killed as will her son crucified, but by mistake. A Jesus haunted also by the guilt of his father, and not knowing how to get rid of this rotten remorse. Devil in a very nice staying! More sympathetic than God portrayed as cruel, vindictive, arrogant. Besides, I can not resist you copy this transition oh how essential but so irreverent, when God sent Jesus on a mission and where he reveals his hidden thoughts: "You've made a nice fate there, after 4000 years of work and worries that the sacrifices on altars to abundant and diverse they may be, will never compensate, you continue to be the god of a small people who live in a tiny part of the world you have created with all that is in it, so tell me, my son, if I can stand for satisfied (...) can you help me to expand my influence, to ensure that I am much more people of God. " In short, the tone, and I understand why the Catholic Church shouted the murderer at the exit of romance! But me, I scoffed, and I thought, well, seriously, this Catholic religion made of "renunciation, fence, suffering, death, wars and bloodshed" (these pages are the ultimate shocking!).Lastly pleasure to follow the meandering thoughts of the narrator, who does not hesitate to challenge the reader by comparing the old things in our own modernity, and always with great humor.Finally, I come out of this devastating gospel full of bumps, shaken by laughter and questioning, beneficial and liberating.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark André

    This sad and familiar story makes for a challenging read. The relationship with Mary Magdalene is a nice addition. The conversation in the boat in the mist between God and Jesus and the devil is very bold. The devil gets the best line: “ ... I myself can see things in the future, but I’m not always certain if what I see there is true or false, in others words I can see my lies for what they are, my truths, but I don’t know to what extent the truths of others are their lies.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tudor Vlad

    Saramago has me at a loss for words yet again. I can't decide if this is his best work (from what I have read of his) but it definitely is at least equal to Blindness and Death with Interruptions. I'm not a religious person, so I had no problem with the liberties he took in this novel. In fact, I was blown away by his characterization of Jesus Christ and how he managed to humanize him. The writing is also pure Saramago, it bewitches you and doesn't let you go. It also feels so effortless, he rea Saramago has me at a loss for words yet again. I can't decide if this is his best work (from what I have read of his) but it definitely is at least equal to Blindness and Death with Interruptions. I'm not a religious person, so I had no problem with the liberties he took in this novel. In fact, I was blown away by his characterization of Jesus Christ and how he managed to humanize him. The writing is also pure Saramago, it bewitches you and doesn't let you go. It also feels so effortless, he really is a God. Speaking of Gods, the interaction between Jesus and God is something I don't think I'll be able to forget anytime soon. Wow!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fede

    "Blasphemy": the exploitation of religious imagery and/or language to serve an anti-religious purpose. "Kitsch": poor taste turned into artistic value. Saramago's book is both. It's blaspheme and kitsch, somewhere between Monty Python's "Brian of Nazareth" and the Arian heresy of the 4th century. It's not overtly anti-religious, since any book related to Jesus Christ is related to a whole system of thought that, like it or not, goes far beyond the historical / anthropological / literary approach; "Blasphemy": the exploitation of religious imagery and/or language to serve an anti-religious purpose. "Kitsch": poor taste turned into artistic value. Saramago's book is both. It's blaspheme and kitsch, somewhere between Monty Python's "Brian of Nazareth" and the Arian heresy of the 4th century. It's not overtly anti-religious, since any book related to Jesus Christ is related to a whole system of thought that, like it or not, goes far beyond the historical / anthropological / literary approach; either you believe or not, you can't talk about God, deity, eschatology without venturing into a desert full of metaphysical temptations through which a million generations have tried to find their way. As for me, I declare myself fully satisfied by the Catholic theology I was taught; but I must admit that my masochist tendency tends to prevail quite openly, and I couldn't wait to see how far Saramago would go in outraging the Scriptural tradition. It's a totally ecumenical outrage, by the way: one of those books that give the different souls of Christianity a good reason to overcome two thousand years of schisms and massacres and focus on a common 'enemy' - either culturally or merely ideologically speaking. Saramago doesn't spare any single page of the Gospels and tells his own version of the story, a strange tale of bewilderment, sense of guilt, nonsensical death in which the 'Logos' (the 'Meaning' presiding over the whole Creation) is just the tantrum of a merciless, childish God. It's hard not to feel a certain unease when, chapter 2, Joseph wakes up, takes a leak in his courtyard and feels... huh... well, in the mood to say good morning to his wife. As a consequence, Mary gets pregnant and the Devil himself (oops... retroactive spoiler alert) announces her the blessed event. Then, after the census, king Herod (exhibiting rotting genitalia and madness, the obvious symptoms of syphilis) orders the slaughtering of dozens of children born in Bethlehem to stop Micah's profecy of a Messiah come to redress evil and injustice... and overthrow the king, of course. Joseph hears the soldiers talking about the murderous expedition and hides his family in a cave. Unfortunately, he forgets to warn the others; the massacre takes place as he listens to the pain-crazed mothers screaming and crying in the village. Joseph's crime is so irreparable that God's justice punishes him in the most fitting way: he is crucified by the Romans after a riot, as an innocent victim of the Judaic war for independence. That's just the beginning. Jesus is not the only son: he's got six brothers and two sisters. He spends some years living with the Devil (disguised as a nameless Shepherd devoted to the pleasures of bestiality) and rejects his family after an argument; he has sexual intercourse with Mary Magdalene, a prostitute who will become his beloved companion; he finally meets God and the Devil and is told about the part he is to play in their plans... and this is where Saramago strikes harder. God wanted a Son to expand his power all over the world, far beyond the boundaries of Israel. Just like that. He needed a martyr as a harbinger, or a decoy; all He aims to achieve is a worldwide dominion that can't be established otherwise, since there can't be any open conflict between God and the other deities (!). As for the Devil, his interests are quite similar: he will always be a co-beneficiary of God's power, a paradoxical dimension in which light is almost indistinguishable from darkness. In fact, they need each other in order to exist. In one of the last chapters, God (in the shape of a wealthy elderly Jew) tells Jesus about the future of Christianity. He lists the numberless martyrs and the horrible tortures and executions they will endure, the self-destructive repression and physical humiliations of the mystics, the religious wars, the Inquisition, the horror and monstrosity of the blood-thirsty Church He is determined to create. The Devil makes a desperate attempt to spare mankind and offers God his eternal devotion in return; no way, everything has already been decided. Jesus must be crucified to forward God's (and his own) cult among the Gentiles. We all know how the story ends, right? Saramago's 'Gospel' is an enigma. It ridicules and condems the Jewish ritual sacrifices, depicting the Temple as a disgusting butchery dripping blood and viscera, but it also condemns the Catholic spirituality as a psychotic, self-inflicted, insane martyrdom. God is a pampered child dreaming of the endless bloodbath awaiting mankind as the celebration of his greatness, whereas the Devil is a parasite living out of Heaven's achievements on earth. No good nor evil, just business, although at the expenses of human beings. Saramago's book has no theological contents really. The author exploits the three synoptic ('narrative') Gospels and part of John's to tell a scandalous version of Jesus' story; the theological background is less the result of the author's reflections than a mid-level knowledge of unorthodox / openly heretical currents of thought. There's neither depth nor cold-blooded rationalism in Saramago's work, that's why it was quite properly considered an example of 'kitsch' literature by a Jesuit magazine. The challenge is not doctrinal at all; neither the author wanted it to be so, anyway. I guess he knew he would be utterly destroyed on a philosophical ground... the Catholic Church of the 90s was hardly a novice in dealing with this sort of matters (but my vision is, alas, a bit one-sided when it comes to certain names of those years, so I'd better not digress). Unfortunately, Saramago's book is good. It's good in spite of its shortcomings . It's good in spite of its pretentiousness. It's good in spite of Saramago's pointless attacks to Christianity and its institutions . His writing is a challenge in itself: an relentless flow of words, sentences, monolithic paragraphs reminding of Krasznahorkai. No direct speech: in Saramago's writing dialogues are barely distinguishable from narration. And yet the reader is never bothered by the visual impact of these pages, as though hypnotized by the sound of the author's voice. There are some truly poetic scenes indeed, especially Jesus' first intercourse with M. Magdalene, deliberately echoing the 'Song of Solomon', but also the ultimate dialogue with God and the Devil I mentioned above. One of those books I'm supposed to hate from an intellectual point of view and love as a unique case in literature... odi et amo. No need to say this means: why on earth didn't I read this before ???

  12. 4 out of 5

    Maru Kun

    One day when I was ten years old sitting in the school library it occurred to me that Jesus Christ was just a big confidence trick. I shared my theological insight with my neighbor, a girl who instantly stood up and ran to the teacher’s desk shouting “Maru Kun thinks Jesus is a confidence trick, Maru Kun thinks Jesus is a confidence trick”. My New Testament exegesis hadn’t been entirely thought out when the teacher came over to ask exactly what I had in mind, but fortunately she didn’t press me One day when I was ten years old sitting in the school library it occurred to me that Jesus Christ was just a big confidence trick. I shared my theological insight with my neighbor, a girl who instantly stood up and ran to the teacher’s desk shouting “Maru Kun thinks Jesus is a confidence trick, Maru Kun thinks Jesus is a confidence trick”. My New Testament exegesis hadn’t been entirely thought out when the teacher came over to ask exactly what I had in mind, but fortunately she didn’t press me for details and instead focused on calming down the young zealot, which I recall she did quite effectively. Unfortunately I didn’t take my insight any further, which is a shame because if I had I might have written ‘The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” and won the Nobel Prize for Literature instead of Jose Saramago. At the risk of simplifying what is a very powerful, thoughtful and entertaining book the main premise of ‘The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” is that God created Jesus to help spread His Church, and hence His power, by scripting a very dramatic human-interest story, the Life of Christ, that will hold enormous appeal to its audience, humanity. The devil is in on the deal, as he prospers from an expanding Christian church just as much as God does. In this respect God is a lot like a reality TV producer trying to bring out a world-beating TV series starring a reluctant Jesus Christ (a charismatic rebel who won’t stick to the script, destined for a tragic end) with support from a sexy older woman with a past (Mary of Magdalene) and featuring plenty of family conflict, money worries, political revolution and a few miracles thrown in to justify the special effects budget. This is a deeply subversive book; it succeeds in turning Christ’s last message from the cross into a cry for human dignity against the war and suffering caused by religion: Jesus realized then that he had been tricked, as the lamb led to sacrifice is tricked, and that his life had been planned for death from the very beginning. Remembering the river of blood and suffering that would flow from his side and flood the globe, he called out to the open sky, where God could be seen smiling, Men, forgive Him, for He knows not what He has done. If the book had been written before 1826, the year of the last execution under the Spanish Inquisition, Jose Saramago would undoubtedly have been burnt at the stake. (The last person to die on the Spanish Inquisition, Cayetano Ripoll, was hung by the civil authorities, much to the annoyance of the Church who buried him in a barrel painted in flames to compensate for this unwarranted act of secular generosity). It is no surprise that the Catholic Church tried to get the book banned, not just because it is subversive but also because it is pretty entertaining. I have been an atheist ever that first encounter with religious extremism in the school library. Since then I have become a not-very-good-Buddhist (a sect that allows drinking, getting angry and an inability to remember the Four Noble Truths while acknowledging that Buddhism would be a good idea if more people could actually understand it, one of the fastest growing Buddhist sects in the West) and am happy to leave the Christians alone as long as they don’t interfere with me. As the Dali Llama once wisely said, you are better off sticking with the religion of your parents and trying not to do any bad stuff rather than change your religion unless you ready to put up with a lot of trouble. Being a not-very-good-Buddhist is decent compromise between the advice of the Dali Llama and my Church of England upbringing. Sadly Christians these days, in particular some (not all) Christians in the US, are showing every sign of wanting to interfere with me, and my friends and pretty much anyone else on the planet that doesn’t fit in with their ideal of the high-earning, gun-toting, liberal-smoting American Jesus who is happy to start WWIII if it would bring on the Rapture and His Kingdom that much quicker. So I would recommend this book to any un-godly atheist destined for the deepest pit in hell who wants to renew his religious non-belief but who would appreciate a break from Hitchens/Dawkins/Harris and the like. Refreshingly, the Jesus it depicts is quite the opposite to the American Jesus as he has much more in common with the Jesus of the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John - a figure one can admire in many respects but who seems pretty much forgotten about these days.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    This was a nice read, at least for the first 300 pages. Saramago's very personal style, with its long meandering sentences and sarcastic remarks and witticisms, here really comes into its own. The book is above all the result of a rich imagination: Saramago reinterprets the Jesus story and fills in some gaps especially about his youth. That he, as an atheist, presents a very human Jesus does not need to wonder. His focus is on the psychological struggle of the carpenter's son, a struggle first w This was a nice read, at least for the first 300 pages. Saramago's very personal style, with its long meandering sentences and sarcastic remarks and witticisms, here really comes into its own. The book is above all the result of a rich imagination: Saramago reinterprets the Jesus story and fills in some gaps especially about his youth. That he, as an atheist, presents a very human Jesus does not need to wonder. His focus is on the psychological struggle of the carpenter's son, a struggle first with the guilt of his father Joseph (who had failed to warn residents of Bethlehem for the coming infanticide by Herod), later a struggle with the fact that he appeared to be the son of God and had received a special assignment. God, moreover, is portrayed very unflattering as a cruel potentate, who is tired of being only the god of a small pastoral people (the Hebrews) and through Jesus wants to reach a much wider audience, even if it means the death of millions of people in the wars and persecutions that will follow. Quite cynical, indeed. Saramago follows this path all the way and even presents the devil as a friendly, humane figure. These reversals of the usual perspective are quite entertaining (Mary is drawn as a stubborn and surly woman), and some of the chapters really are touching (some also rather shocking). The pivotal scene - Jesus in a boat on the lake together with God and the devil - definitely is a classic, but I think a lot of the critical remarks on religion are rather commonplace. But then, in the end Saramago gets a little stuck and has to give his story a sudden turn to be able to make a point. Apart from this rather disappointing final, I think this is a successful book, especially through Saramago's inimitable style and formidable imagination.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Definitely not recommended for very religious people. Otherwise, I think of it as a true masterpiece. Saramago is a magus of words...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susana

    (review in English below) O melhor de Saramago e um dos melhores livros que já li! A escrita é magnífica, riquíssima de estilo e significado, repleta de filosofia como se nada fosse, ou como se fosse a coisa mais natural do mundo. Tenho pena de não ter copiado algumas pérolas, mas talvez ainda vá procurá-las. Os diálogos entre Jesus e Deus são fabulosos, ao mesmo tempo duma profundidade e dum humor que, parecendo incompatíveis à partida, fazem todo o sentido. Depois de ter dado 5 estrelas a "Caim", (review in English below) O melhor de Saramago e um dos melhores livros que já li! A escrita é magnífica, riquíssima de estilo e significado, repleta de filosofia como se nada fosse, ou como se fosse a coisa mais natural do mundo. Tenho pena de não ter copiado algumas pérolas, mas talvez ainda vá procurá-las. Os diálogos entre Jesus e Deus são fabulosos, ao mesmo tempo duma profundidade e dum humor que, parecendo incompatíveis à partida, fazem todo o sentido. Depois de ter dado 5 estrelas a "Caim", gostava de poder dar 6 a esta verdadeira obra-prima! The best from Saramago and one of the best books I've ever read! The writing is exquisite, extraordinarily rich in style and meaning, full of philosophy as if there was nothing to it, or as if it were the most ordinary thing. I regret not having written down some mind-blowing sentences... The dialogues between Jesus and God are to die for, with such depth and humour - which, seemingly incompatible, end up making lots of sense. Having given 5 stars to Caim, I wish I could give 6 stars to this wonderful masterpiece!

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

    Philosophical question 1 If you knew that someone was going to kill all the children under three, would you tell others to save their children? Or just save your own child? Philosophical question 2 How do you feel knowing that so many others died but you survived? Philosophical question 3 What do you think of your father who saved you but not others? Those are some deep questions. And if you are Jesus and your father was Joseph, you would be into some serious head scratching. Or maybe you find out tha Philosophical question 1 If you knew that someone was going to kill all the children under three, would you tell others to save their children? Or just save your own child? Philosophical question 2 How do you feel knowing that so many others died but you survived? Philosophical question 3 What do you think of your father who saved you but not others? Those are some deep questions. And if you are Jesus and your father was Joseph, you would be into some serious head scratching. Or maybe you find out that you are the son of god and all of this was foretold. Planned. The will of god. Then you meet God and the Devil. They tell you the future. What is planned. What you need to do. What kind of deal you are getting into. What will be will always be. We just need to get the ball rolling. Perhaps it’s all about balance? Good and bad. Life and death. Power and glory. Romans and Jews. Men and women. Dios y diablo. John the Baptist and Jesus the anointed one. Mary the virgin and Mary Magdalene la puta. Consequences. Joseph was accidentally crucified. Jesus was purposely crucified. Jesus the shepherd; Jesus the fisher. Gather the crowds and scorned by the people. The art of the deal. The sacrificial lamb. What’s in it for me? Two thousand years of endless people dying in the name of religion. The martyrs, the religious wars, the Inquisition (yeah, don’t forget about this?). An awful lot to ponder. Seriously reflect. What did I just read? In the words of José Saramago, an absolutely wild read. Amen.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Caveat: This book has a very limited audience. Those with little interest in the Christian religion will find it a difficult and unrewarding slog. Conversely those with strong religious beliefs may be challenged or offended and avoid the book for those reasons. Additionally, the writing is very dense and somewhat difficult and will deter casual readers who may be otherwise interested in the subject matter (while the book is only 340 pages, the font is small and tightly packed, and there are few Caveat: This book has a very limited audience. Those with little interest in the Christian religion will find it a difficult and unrewarding slog. Conversely those with strong religious beliefs may be challenged or offended and avoid the book for those reasons. Additionally, the writing is very dense and somewhat difficult and will deter casual readers who may be otherwise interested in the subject matter (while the book is only 340 pages, the font is small and tightly packed, and there are few paragraph breaks and no line breaks for dialogue, so this feels more like a 500+ page book). This leaves a very narrow band of likely readers, namely mildly or formerly religious people who enjoy reading difficult literature. People like myself, who are for reasons of upbringing or possibly masochistic tendencies, cursed with a deep fascination of the subject despite believing not a word of it. This is a masterpiece of historical and philosophical fiction. It is simply a beautifully written book, both in the style of prose and the content. Overall, it is very respectful to the source material. There is no overt mocking element; the writing does not look down on religion. The characters are very real and human, and are treated with seriousness and dignity. The subversive element is quite subtle (with the arguable exception of one chapter close to the end of the book), and on the whole arises naturally from the interactions between the characters and the situations in which they are placed. The characters are forced to work through difficult moral situations and in doing so bring to light the absurdity of the various doctrines of the religion. This is treated so lightly that I fear the moral questions raised are likely to be missed if one is not paying attention. One thing I really liked was the way the book handled depictions of ancient Jewish life. The role of women being completely subservient to men: first to their fathers, then husbands, and ultimately to their own children, and the effect this had on their relationship with their families. It also depicted honestly the ritual of quotidian animal sacrifice - the absolute savagery, cruelty and waste of this practice, which is often overlooked when we think about that culture and that time. If I have one small criticism, it is that the final two chapters appear somewhat rushed, as if the author has said what he needed to say in the preceding chapter (which is in fact the crux of the book and seems to contain the culmination of the author's message) and was simply trying to conclude the book. It's a pity because those final chapters contain some key events that were worthy of closer scrutiny.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    Saramago is jumping on my favorite author list with each book. Wherter is it historic fiction or religious satire, his cynicism and sharp writing style and dry humor really float my boat.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jareed

    Also posted on my blog:i'mbookedindefinitely Appreciation of this book dictates that you have to contend with two premises: First: That Saramago's signature writing is characterized by sentences that are paragraphs long occasionally digressing from the thought of the sentence. Second: That this book is about the humanization of Jesus Christ necessarily entailing innumerable repercussions to the orthodox belief of his 'socially' constructed divinity. Of the two, I met with some negligible difficulty Also posted on my blog:i'mbookedindefinitely Appreciation of this book dictates that you have to contend with two premises: First: That Saramago's signature writing is characterized by sentences that are paragraphs long occasionally digressing from the thought of the sentence. Second: That this book is about the humanization of Jesus Christ necessarily entailing innumerable repercussions to the orthodox belief of his 'socially' constructed divinity. Of the two, I met with some negligible difficulty with former. Saramago's writing is incomparably unique and beautiful at the same time. It is unique for his sentences are literally paragraphs long lengthened by serial commas and seemingly unending semicolons. But Saramago's writing does not lack beauty. In fact even in his long winded sentences, there is fluidity in his labyrinthine like thoughts. It cannot be hardly expected that sentences as long as his comport themselves into solitary thoughts. This is hardly the case as his sentences sometimes tend to digress from the precedents he has laid down. I often find myself pausing irregularly, suddenly turning pages back, and rereading certain passages over again. But once you find the coherence in his thought and the connection between the phrases, one will find writing unlike any other. The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is an incomparably fearless work. Works like these tend to create an unprecedented outcry from the religious community, as it did in this case, which however did not impede Saramago winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. In most Christian orthodox beliefs, the arrangement of the written Word, what books to include and not, were contemplated over a time span of centuries and most were in pursuit of a certain desired conclusion, the rendering of Jesus Christ’s divinity. Also, Jesus formative years from 12 years of age to 30 are not recorded or written. This book is a fictional retelling of that life, including the years before his ministry. This is an attempt on the humanization of the life of Jesus Christ. He is portrayed as flawed, easily angered, subjected to passions, desires and doubts; he is portrayed as “human” . As an extract, he wrote how Jesus fell in love with Magdalene, learning the warmth and passion of the loins and how through his ministry, she remained to be on her side, as an apostle no less. The controversy over these kinds of themes and books has always been curious to me. The contention that lies on the alleged challenges to his divinity is misplaced and unnecessary. I guess people tend to forget the fact that Jesus was born of a human mother, but more importantly, he himself was both burdened and liberated by the human flesh. He was subject to pain, hunger, and passion naturally. We have here a perfect human model who was able to rise above the yoke of the world, but in failing to acknowledge that he himself was condemned to the very maladies we are subject to, we tend to be caught in a cyclic self-defeating belief. You see, faith in Jesus Christ should not be that he was faultless, kind, and magnanimous because he was divine. It should be anchored on the idea that he was human, like us, and that he saw kindness in the world, he gave compassion where none was asked, he made the right and honest decisions were conventionality dictated otherwise. To consider the question of this book as an affront to the faithful is both hilarious and tautological. Faith is a funny thing. It is meant to be tested, to weather it from the storms of challenges, to keep resolute in times of trials and temptations, to be unyielding in the most pressing of times, there lies faith, not in the cradled bosoms of the fearful and the apprehensive. For a similar book to enjoy, read Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (4 Stars) This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Awardees

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy Reed

    OK, I have officially given up on this book. I have 75 pages left, but I just can't do it. For the last few days, I have picked it up only to put it down again as soon as I read the first sentence five times. I feel stupid. This guy is a Nobel Prize winner, so that must mean I'm an idiot if I don't like him, right? This book is smart, don't get me wrong. It's obvious a genius wrote it. But I don't read for intellectual stimulation unless I'm in a literature class. Perhaps that makes me a lazy re OK, I have officially given up on this book. I have 75 pages left, but I just can't do it. For the last few days, I have picked it up only to put it down again as soon as I read the first sentence five times. I feel stupid. This guy is a Nobel Prize winner, so that must mean I'm an idiot if I don't like him, right? This book is smart, don't get me wrong. It's obvious a genius wrote it. But I don't read for intellectual stimulation unless I'm in a literature class. Perhaps that makes me a lazy reader. If I'm going to spend my little free time with a book, I need it to move me emotionally. That's just the way I roll. I feel like I should be ashamed of this. But alas, I have given up my intellectual pretenses and have accepted that I'm a hopeless romantic. I need a book to make me cry if I'm going to like it. This book made me think "ooh, isn't this author smart" but I felt nothing for the characters. And that's saying a lot because the main character is Jesus Christ, who you'd think would be a pretty dynamic character. I'd love to know what other people think about this book if they've read it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    sologdin

    Early on, “Mary’s legs were now open, perhaps they had opened by themselves as she dreamed and she did not close them out of this sudden lassitude, or else from the premonition of a married woman who knows her duty […] the holy seed of Joseph poured into the holy womb of Mary” (13), sufficiently heretical without the immediate afterthought: “there are things God Himself does not understand” (id.). Don’t worry--this is merely prelude to Jesus & Magdalena: “Discover your body, and there it was, te Early on, “Mary’s legs were now open, perhaps they had opened by themselves as she dreamed and she did not close them out of this sudden lassitude, or else from the premonition of a married woman who knows her duty […] the holy seed of Joseph poured into the holy womb of Mary” (13), sufficiently heretical without the immediate afterthought: “there are things God Himself does not understand” (id.). Don’t worry--this is merely prelude to Jesus & Magdalena: “Discover your body, and there it was, tense, taut, roused, and she, naked and magnificent, was above him and saying, There is nothing fear, do not move, leave this to me. Then he felt part of him, this organ, disappearing inside her, a ring of fire around it, coming and going, a shudder passed through him, like a wriggling fish slipping free with a shout, surely impossible, fish do not shout, no, it was he, Jesus, crying out as Mary slumped over his body with a moan” (237)--which is something of a miracle, as JC should’ve been like the 40-Year Old Virgin here instead of Ron Jeremy. So, yeah, it’s that kind of book. Jesus is born in a cave (58). Some dicking around in the beginning about who actually knocked Mary up--Satan, YHWH, big Joe. Running commentary throughout on gender politics, such as “Mary is neither upright nor pious, but she is not to blame for this, the blame lies with the language she speaks if not with the men who invented it, because that language has no feminine form for the words upright and pious” (16) or “we mustn’t forget that this whole process, from the moment of impregnation to the moment of birth, is unclean, that vile female organ, vortex and abyss, the seat of all the world’s evil, an inner labyrinth of blood, discharges, gushing water, revolting afterbirth, dear God” (54). We get a Life of Brian joke: “The is not the only couple called Joseph and Mary expecting a baby, who perhaps two infants of the same sex, preferably male, will be born at the same hour and only a road or a field of corn between them. The destinies that await these infants, however, will be different” (52). In addition to gentle political ribbing and express heresy, there’s effective satire throughout, such as the alphabetical listing of martyrs (321-25) and the history of Jesus’ foreskin (63) (I love the latter particularly because my own favorite internet alt 15 years ago was Christ’s Foreskin; it was the ideal prophylactic to slip on and penetrate online religious discussions.) Basic engine of the narrative is that Joe overhears plans for Herod’s slaughter of infants and runs back to save Jesus, but doesn’t bother to warn anyone else, and thereafter carries guilt for this omission; novel intones “A father’s guilt falls on the heads of his children” (88), and so Christ carries this with him after Joe gets crucified by the bloody Romans (it really is very difficult to read this without thinking Monty Python.) There’s a great moment where Jesus literally steps into Joe’s shoes as a subrogee (137). Christ is haunted by dream visions of the slaughter of innocents, and author reminds us that “it may seem inappropriate to put the complex theories of modern thinkers into the head of a Palestinian who lived so many years before Freud, Jung, Groddeck, and Lacan” (162). Anyway, “God does not forgive the sins He makes us commit” (127). And “man is free […] so that he might be punished” (171). But cf.: “your God is the only warden of a prison where the only prisoner is your God” (197). It is “impossible to tell the difference between an angel of the Lord and an angel of Satan” (213). (The Lucifer character is very interesting--not Milton-interesting, but alright.) Overall, zips right along. Recommended for those who learn that certain things can be understood only if we take the trouble to trace them to their origins, incubuses who violate women in their sleep, and readers who show that supreme indifference which we associate with the universe, or that other absolute indifference, the indifference of emptiness, which will remain, if there is such a thing as emptiness, when all has been fulfilled.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Let me say at the outset that this book will probably be quite a challenge to anyone who holds (and doesn’t want to let go) a very traditional, orthodox reading of the traditional gospels in the Christian Testament. What Saramago has done here is to IMAGINE a gospel that places at least equal weight on Jesus as divine AND human. He also IMAGINES God (the Father, that is) who might also be both divine and human (as the ancient Greek gods were, with all their jealousies, rivalries, self-interests, Let me say at the outset that this book will probably be quite a challenge to anyone who holds (and doesn’t want to let go) a very traditional, orthodox reading of the traditional gospels in the Christian Testament. What Saramago has done here is to IMAGINE a gospel that places at least equal weight on Jesus as divine AND human. He also IMAGINES God (the Father, that is) who might also be both divine and human (as the ancient Greek gods were, with all their jealousies, rivalries, self-interests, etc). At times we see Jesus being pushed and pulled by a god (little “g”) very different from what we’re use to. Just remember, this is not a re-telling of the traditional story, but an imaginative work of art. I would also venture to say that Saramago has told a universal story. At the risk of sounding like a “new age” guru, aren’t all humans both divine and human? I have always loved the ancient gods. They always seemed so real to me. Saramago, I think, succeeds in telling a story that is about all of us. I can't decide if I like this story better that "Blindness." For the time being, I'd place them on equal status.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    In this novel Saramago has created a masterpiece, both in terms of style and content. The prose is musical, poetically evocative of the streams of consciousness and conversation that fill our lives. While Saramago's paragraphs often run several pages in length, and his idiosyncratic use of punctuation (e.g., his refusal to use quotation marks to delimit speech and his insistence on ending all sentences--including questions--with a period) can seem daunting, the fluid, melodic language makes readi In this novel Saramago has created a masterpiece, both in terms of style and content. The prose is musical, poetically evocative of the streams of consciousness and conversation that fill our lives. While Saramago's paragraphs often run several pages in length, and his idiosyncratic use of punctuation (e.g., his refusal to use quotation marks to delimit speech and his insistence on ending all sentences--including questions--with a period) can seem daunting, the fluid, melodic language makes reading the story a true pleasure. In terms of content, Saramago has mastered the art of faithfully retelling a story while simultaneously subverting the text through interesting asides, editorial comments, notes to the reader, etc. He also subverts the normal relationship between humanity and God in Christian tradition, wherein humanity is in need of God's forgiveness. In Saramago's retelling, it is the inhumanity of God that is need of humanity's forgiveness. I have often wondered at the needless brutality that lies at the core of mainstream Christian theology (i.e., God needing to have his only child brutally murdered in order to forgive me for being the imperfect being I was created to be), and finally, in Saramago, I have found an author willing to take God to task while not dismissing the sorrowful beauty of the life of Jesus.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    Let's face it, I'm infatuated by the writing of José Saramago, and will continue to read the few novels he wrote that I have not yet had the chance to. Granted, his style takes some getting used to, with the paragraph long sentences, liberal use of commas, and complete lack of conventional standards for dialogue. The book is certainly blasphemous from a purely theological standpoint, as Saramago was an atheist, but make no mistake; this is a towering work of literature. The characters are fleshed Let's face it, I'm infatuated by the writing of José Saramago, and will continue to read the few novels he wrote that I have not yet had the chance to. Granted, his style takes some getting used to, with the paragraph long sentences, liberal use of commas, and complete lack of conventional standards for dialogue. The book is certainly blasphemous from a purely theological standpoint, as Saramago was an atheist, but make no mistake; this is a towering work of literature. The characters are fleshed out so beautifully, their joys and sorrows detailed so carefully; their lives brought to life through the written word. Saramago's prose is very hard to top in its haunting beauty; I must have quoted at least two to three dozen passages. This humanistic perspective of Jesus, along with the portrayal of Mary Magdalene, the apostles, particularly the infamous Judas Iscariot, as well as God and 'Pastor' were absolutely fantastic, and wove a wonderful, if not horrifying tale. I can't say enough about Saramago's genius. One of my favorite 'contemporary' authors. Highest possible rating!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Branko Nikovski

    [I]Read this masterpiece during the week between the Catholic and Orthodox Easter ; it was a logical mental gymnastic in a time interval where [during this 9-8 days] human hypocrisy is at its peak and honesty and humility are only pronounced words that cover the mask of vanity and arrogance. Reviewing Saramago is high over my metaphysical jurisdiction, but even with only a rudimental meta-metaphysical analysis you can understand that uncle José was a genius.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shaimaa Ali

    One of the rarest times ever that i'm not able to rate a book! Saramago at his best & worst at the same time!! I've read lots of Saramago novels (Blindness , Seeing, The year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, the Cave, Manual of Painting and Calligraphy, the voyage of the elephant) and still have others by him to read.. My luck lead me today to start reading "The Gospel" as it has a very seductive title.. Knowing that Saramago was an atheist before start reading this novel will make it a bit of a reli One of the rarest times ever that i'm not able to rate a book! Saramago at his best & worst at the same time!! I've read lots of Saramago novels (Blindness , Seeing, The year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, the Cave, Manual of Painting and Calligraphy, the voyage of the elephant) and still have others by him to read.. My luck lead me today to start reading "The Gospel" as it has a very seductive title.. Knowing that Saramago was an atheist before start reading this novel will make it a bit of a relief as the shocks inside it are numerous!! The Gospel here is against my Islamic & even Christians' believes .. However you can't deny how genius he was in illustrating the life of The Christ as he imagined it, sound strange right? But the deep conversations , questions raised between Jesus , God and the Devil are amazing .. Eye opening ! You are not to think later of how easy it is to defeat atheists questions and defend your religion.. It's never easy!! Saramago is not denying the existence of God ..if he did he won't come with all those painful questions .. Won't write four whole pages with the names of the Christian Martyrs through the years in alphabetical order! .. Won't even mention Islam with the deep voice coming from the mist questioning if they are probably the same God or not!! Saramago was cynical , provoking and humorous at the same time, i started by cursing him thousand times at the start of the novel as he kept on twisting the truth , but from literature point of view he was brilliant! Not recommended for any religious reader, it will rage you to the bones, but will enlighten you if you chose to use such claims against God to strengthen your faith !!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leonor R. Fernandes

    What is great literature but to absolutely despise so many things about a book overall, character development, plot construction, and even so living in the constant realization that in front of your eyes lies the work of a genius? I started this book the way I start every book written by Saramago; expecting to see hatred, bitterness, the wrong amount of pretentious, and every time I come back to his works for sheer amusement. Above all, the truth is that Saramago does to the reader what any read What is great literature but to absolutely despise so many things about a book overall, character development, plot construction, and even so living in the constant realization that in front of your eyes lies the work of a genius? I started this book the way I start every book written by Saramago; expecting to see hatred, bitterness, the wrong amount of pretentious, and every time I come back to his works for sheer amusement. Above all, the truth is that Saramago does to the reader what any reader intends to have done to them – a way to make us the one who writes, or, if we prefer, the one who narrates, the one who knows every step of every character and how a story unwinds within the story; a challenge, to accept that the story can be what we make of it, to accept that the story can be something completely different from what we set it out to be before, that the world and life itself are, in such a way, unforeseen, that the devil can become a Shepherd and that Jesus can, after all, be a wrongdoer, that literature can able us to live fiction as it was reality, for during those 500 pages, that is our reality; Saramago does to the reader, that which a good writer cannot do, that which, inevitably, only the best writers can do: knowing a work as fiction, and even then perceive it as wholly beautiful, and feel it, most of the times, has harshly real – even though we know it to be unreal, or unknown. The genius in Saramago, and maybe that is the reason we can use this word, is transversal to everything a work can contain; it’s not only about a well-built plot, but also a linguistic mastering that takes our breath away and makes us want to keep going, even with shortness of breath, until the very last page. As if we cannot allow the reading to cease at the first full stop, as if at every comma a new stimulus sprouts into existence, a new urgency in sucking everything the author has to tell us. If any literary geniuses exist, or have ever existed, we cannot afford not to mention José Saramago as one of them. I say this as an incredulous reader that with every book from this writer gets more surprised, not only for it not being, after all, a bore, but for being, unquestionably, always a good surprise, a good place to come back to. Uncomfortable, also, but beautiful, precisely for it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shari

    Thought-provoking. This book will anger, provoke, inspire and bewilder its readers. For the religious, and Bible fanatics, this book requires an open mind to be tackled, because in it the life and passion of Christ are presented in a different light. The major elements of the four New Testament gospels about the life of Christ are mostly there, but Saramago not only mixed them around, but added and omitted some as well. Jesus in this novel is filled with questions and doubts. For him, God's acti Thought-provoking. This book will anger, provoke, inspire and bewilder its readers. For the religious, and Bible fanatics, this book requires an open mind to be tackled, because in it the life and passion of Christ are presented in a different light. The major elements of the four New Testament gospels about the life of Christ are mostly there, but Saramago not only mixed them around, but added and omitted some as well. Jesus in this novel is filled with questions and doubts. For him, God's actions are not absolute. He obeys God's bidding to be sacrificed not because he believes, but because he has no choice. He spiritually grumbles as he does them, not because he is a "bad" son, but because he thinks there is a better way to make people believe. In Saramago's world, God is equally responsible for the evil that is happening around.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    Father Figures Sons look up to their fathers and try to emulate them. They also defy them, striking out on their own, or attempting to do so. Why should this be any different in the case of the young Jesus Christ? This amazing novel by Nobel prizewinner José Saramago asks just this question, concentrating on a time-frame largely passed over in the Bible, the adolescence and young manhood of Jesus, although several familiar events occur out of their gospel sequence. There is something compelling ab Father Figures Sons look up to their fathers and try to emulate them. They also defy them, striking out on their own, or attempting to do so. Why should this be any different in the case of the young Jesus Christ? This amazing novel by Nobel prizewinner José Saramago asks just this question, concentrating on a time-frame largely passed over in the Bible, the adolescence and young manhood of Jesus, although several familiar events occur out of their gospel sequence. There is something compelling about reading a story whose general outlines are well known but whose details are totally fresh. The suspense comes from waiting to see, not what happens next, but how it happens. It is a tradition as old as bardic times, when audiences might hear Gilgamesh, the Iliad, or Beowulf, and marvel at the familiar events being told in new ways. It demands the existence of an accepted canon, fixed in outline but variable in detail. And it also requires that the stories should touch upon something deeply important, the religious beliefs of a people. It may be a shock to think of the life of Jesus Christ in these terms, but the many gospels, biblical and otherwise, certainly provide variations on the common theme, and the religious implications are indisputable. When I picked up a copy of Saramago's retelling of the story, I intended just to use it for reference, but I found myself reading from beginning to end, enthralled. It is hard to talk objectively of a religious book, since different readers will be affected by what they bring to it. This is a novel, a very free retelling of the story that will be anathema to fundamentalists. But every page shines with the belief that religion matters and divinity exists; it is not a book for atheists either. I myself come to it from a strong religious upbringing which changed in my twenties to what I can only call an interested agnosticism. I also read it immediately after two other books: Saramago's Death with Interruptions, which broke my fear of this challenging author, and Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, which tells the story of Jesus entirely in human terms, rejecting the miracles and apocalyptic elements as inventions of the Christian church. I knew from Death with Interruptions that Saramago had little patience with the work of the church, and rejects a God who can allow such death and bloodshed in his name and do nothing to intervene. One chapter in The Gospel has God listing in alphabetical detail all the martyrdoms that would befall the saints of the church, not to mention the horrors of the crusades and the inquisition. But I leap ahead. Judging from the beginning of the book, which dispenses with the virginity of Mary and places Jesus and his siblings in the midst of a normally squabbling family, I had thought that Saramago would also present an entirely human Jesus. But his context is emphatically a religious one, contrasting two opposing strands. There is the complex system of observances in which Jesus would have been brought up as a devout Jew. And Mary (who, as a woman, is marginalized in religious law) receives mysterious visits from an angel who leaves minor miracles in his wake. Angel of God, or messenger of the Devil? Saramago leaves the matter open, and continues to do so. Jesus spends four years as apprentice to a shepherd known only as Pastor, whose true nature is ambiguous until the end. Even in the conversation between God and Jesus referred to above, Satan appears as a third participant, on friendly terms with God and joining in from time to time. Indeed, Satan often seems the more attractive of the two. Saramago's Jesus will have several fathers. First and most obviously Joseph, who is treated with unusual detail here as a vigorous and competent man burdened by guilt because of one original sin—that, knowing of Herod's intended massacre of the innocents, he used his knowledge to save only his own family without warning his neighbors. Saramago parallels Joseph's life to that of Jesus in uncanny ways, even down to his death at the same age. When Jesus learns the circumstances of his birth, he too is assailed by guilt. It is now that he meets Pastor, who becomes like a second father to him, presiding as he drops the strict Jewish observances in favor of a more humanistic morality; there is a significant occasion when Jesus refuses to kill the lamb he has been given for the Passover sacrifice. His apprenticeship ends when he meets his third and true father, God. Now fully a man, he meets Mary Magdalene and lives with her for the rest of his life. He also begins the series of miracles recorded in the gospels, though not yet understanding where his powers come from. In a second meeting enshrouded in mists in the middle of the Sea of Gennaseret, God makes clear what he wants of him: nothing less than the foundation of the Catholic Church through his son's example and sacrifice. But when Jesus realizes the horrors that will ensue, he tries to defy God by bringing about his own death, not as the Son of God but as King of the Jews—a claim designed to force the Romans to execute him on political grounds. As we know, he fails in secularizing his role; and for good or ill, the rest is history.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vasilis

    "Blessed is the reader who manages to reach the end of this book"... And then I finished the book after a lot of frustration and shouted "Hosanna". Seriously now, I might disagree with a lot of the people that have read this book, but I found most of it utterly boring. The first part in particular, which is mostly about Joseph, is dull and goes on and on... Things improve a bit when Jesus decides to make an appearance at some point, but his life, as we all know, is short-lived and thus we are le "Blessed is the reader who manages to reach the end of this book"... And then I finished the book after a lot of frustration and shouted "Hosanna". Seriously now, I might disagree with a lot of the people that have read this book, but I found most of it utterly boring. The first part in particular, which is mostly about Joseph, is dull and goes on and on... Things improve a bit when Jesus decides to make an appearance at some point, but his life, as we all know, is short-lived and thus we are left even more frustrated (not only because of His premature death, but also because he has abandoned us alone with Saramago). Is there anything positive then? Well, the plot twists are imaginative. There are also three scenes that I really liked a. Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene b. Jesus on the boat with God and Pastor and c. The final chapter, which is written in a superb manner. I also liked Saramago's cheekiness, but I am a cheeky bugger, too, and nobody seems to give me any Nobel prize for my efforts! I just wish Saramago had learnt how to use commas and fullstops at school; to be a bit less clever (or pretentious as some people would say); and finally to be better at keeping me entertained. You know, entertainment and intellectual stimulation can go hand in hand. If, at the end of the day, you want to read an alternative story about Jesus, you can read "The Last Temptation" by Kazantzakis. It is much better.

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