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In 1551, King Joo III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. In Jose Saramago's remarkable and imaginative retelling, Solomon and his keeper, Subhro, begin in dismal conditions, forgotten in a corner of the palace grounds.
When it occurs to the king and queen that an elephant would be an appropriate wedding gift, everyone rushes to get them ready: Subhro is given two new suits of clothes and Solomon a long overdue scrub. Accompanied by the Archduke, his new wife, and the royal guard, these unlikely heroes traverse a continent riven by the Reformation and civil wars, witnessed along the way by scholars, historians, and wide-eyed ordinary people as they make their way through the storied cities of northern Italy; they brave the Alps and the terrifying Isarco and Brenner Passes; across the Mediterranean Sea and up the Inn River; and at last, toward their grand entry into the imperial city.
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By Bibliophile1963 on 01-17-17
There's something quintessentially Portuguese about this novel. It's something about the gentle humor, the deep wisdom, the kind acceptance of human nature. There's also a sense of absurd frivolity, rather like some of Lisbon's fanciful architecture. Somehow the author manages to write with bold childlike innocence and the wisdom of the ages. What's more amazing is that he did so while telling of a true historical event. It left me in tears but also in touch with my inner child.
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