Review of José Saramago's The Cave
At a cursory glance, not a whole lot seems to happen in The Cave. Nobel laureate José Saramago's twelfth novel is a gentle tale about gentle people. There is little to no action, the book contains a lengthy, technical discourse on the finer points of fire-kilned pottery, and the protagonist is an elderly widower who really doesn't get around too much. But don't let this description fool you -- The Cave is a beautiful novel, rich with inter-character tensions, and like all of Saramago's work, it reads with a rambling beauty and an irresistible wink-wink charm.
The Cave examines the simple life of Cipriano Algor, an old-fashioned earthenware potter. The last in a line of potters stretching back for three generations, Cipriano's work is rapidly becoming obsolete. Cipriano, who is getting on in years, lives with his pregnant daughter Marta and her husband Marcal on the outskirts of a small rural village. He sells his pottery solely to an enormous shopping and living complex called "The Center," located on the outskirts of the nearby city. As in Saramago's last two novels, Blindness and All The Names, he leaves the city and country of his setting unnamed, and his narrative is deliberately free from specific political or cultural references. The Center could be in any town in any country, and Saramago delivers his message loud and clear: that's not what this story is about.
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