THE STONE RAFT by José Saramago
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From noted Portuguese writer Saramago (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, 1993, etc.), a playful "what-if" tale -- what if the earth were to crack and the Iberian Peninsula started sailing across the Atlantic? -- that also slyly satirizes current European and international politics. As in all good fables, the catastrophe here is preceded by ominous but random happenings that lend an air of bogus authority and mystery to a story that is to be enjoyed as much for itself as for the potshots it takes. In Portugal, Joana Carda, who has just left her husband, scratches the ground with an elm bough, and the line cannot be erased; the famous barkless dogs of Cerb‚re suddenly begin to bark; Joaquim Sassa throws a heavy stone into the sea that lands far out of sight; Jos‚ Anaio, out on a morning stroll, is followed by a flock of starlings; a widow, Maria Guavaira, finds an old sock that endlessly unravels; and in Spain, aging Pedro Orce gets up from his chair and feels the earth tremble beneath his feet. Next, cracks appear along the Pyrenees mountains, and, as they rapidly widen, Spain and Portugal are soon cut off from the rest of Europe. Tourists panic; local peasants occupy the now-empty hotels. As the peninsula heads out into the Atlantic, abandoning the disputed Rock of Gibraltar along the way, politicians make ineffectual statements and vague promises of help; European youths, declaring "We are Iberians too," riot in sympathy. And while the peninsula just misses the Azores, seems bound for Newfoundland, then alters its course and sails south, the long thread that Maria had unraveled somehow brings the apparent prognosticators of the event together. By car and then by wagon, they wander across the land, finding love and adventure along the way, as well as an understanding of "how all things in this world are linked together." A splendidly imagined epic voyage on an unlikely ship manned by political trimmers as well as the loving in heart. A fabulous fable.
Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-15-185198-0
Page count: 350pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995


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