What if, one day, Europe was to crack along the length of the Pyrenees, separating the Iberian peninsula?
In Saramago's lovely fable, the new island is sent spinning, like a great stone raft, towards the Azores. While the authorities panic and tourists and investors flee, three men, two women and a dog are drawn together by portents that burden them with a bemusing sense of responsibility. Travelling at first packed into a car, then into a wagon, they take to the road to explore the limits of their now finite land, adrift in a world made new by this radical shift in perspective.
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Born in Portugal in 1922, José Saramago was one of the most important writers of his generation. He was in his fifties when he came to prominence as a novelist with the publication of Baltasar & Blimunda. A huge body of work followed, which included plays, poetry, short stories, non-fiction and over a dozen novels, including Blindness which was made into an acclaimed film. He has been translated into more than forty languages, and in 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died on 18 June 2010, shortly after the Portuguese publication of Cain.
Giovanni Pointiero, formerly Reader in Latin-American Literature in the University of Manchester, was Saramago's regular English translator. His translation of The Gospel according to Jesus Christ was awarded the Teixeira-Gomes Prize for Portuguese translation. He was also the principal English translator of the works of Clarice Lispector. He died in 1996.