3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Thought Provoking Look at the Life of Jesus
Some topics always provoke controversy even though they shouldn't. Religion and religious convictions are one. If one has faith, then that faith, by its very definition, should be able to withstand a work of fiction even though that work of fiction is very well written. Jose Saramago's THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST has, I think, provoked much more...
Published on April 1 2004 by Totally Anonymous
1.0 out of 5 stars 2000 years short of being original
Saramago probably masters his native language amazingly well, but he has the mindframe of a marxist professor of the 50ies, and as much as he can try, he just can't think out of it. He is disturbingly pompous and predictable while pretending to be original and provocative. He pretends to tell the life of Jesus "as if Jesus had been a real man". If this book had...
Published on Sept. 5 2002 by Voltaire
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Thought Provoking Look at the Life of Jesus,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)Some topics always provoke controversy even though they shouldn't. Religion and religious convictions are one. If one has faith, then that faith, by its very definition, should be able to withstand a work of fiction even though that work of fiction is very well written. Jose Saramago's THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST has, I think, provoked much more controversy-and condemnation-than it ever should have. But the very fact that it has, I think, is testament to its greatness and its ability to provoke thought.
I think there is much to admire in this beautiful book...and it is quite beautiful. The prose is lyrical and poetic and, at times, magical and heartbreaking. People who say Saramago is "difficult reading" may just not like his style of writing. The only punctuation he uses are commas and periods and his sentences and paragraphs go on for pages and pages and pages. Saramago tells his stories in torrents of words...wonderful words...and if a reader lets himself get caught up in those words, they carry him along, effortlessly, through the book. Saramago is far too good a writer to be "difficult." He's so good-a definite master-that his writing appears to be effortless.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST tells the story of Christ from Christ's own point of view. This causes him to be supremely human, something that is missing from most other accounts of Christ's life. Jesus, in this book, is a fully realized human being, one who has desires and temptations, one who sometimes fails and one who, above all, questions his life and its meaning and even comes to doubt Judaism and its intense focus on sacrifice and suffering.
Saramago, himself, has said that he writes to understand and to question and so, it makes sense, at least to me, that he would question the institution of organized religion and the gospels in this book. I'm Catholic and the book only deepened my faith; I wasn't in the slightest bit offended by it. I do think, however, that some more fundamentalist Christians might be offended and perhaps they should simply skip this book and read something else, instead.
In THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST, Saramago lavishes much empathy on Jesus as a fellow human being who is filled with doubts and suffering. The author's view of Jesus and his contemporaries is quite compassionate and almost tender. I don't know how people can object to Jesus' love for Mary Magdalene; Saramago portrays this love as very sincere and very deep. One can see that, above all, Saramago was trying to understand how Christ felt, not as God or as the son of God, but as a man, a man who lived as a human being and interacted with his fellow human beings.
Saramago is not, however, so generous and compassionate in his portrayal of God. Saramago's God is a vengeful one, one who causes the men He created to sin and then punishes that sin without mercy. In fact, in this book, Jesus doesn't choose to become a martyr and the salvation of all mankind; he is tricked into it by God, Himself. There are two lovely set pieces in which we can see just how much Saramago questions God's mercy: one in the desert and another that occurs years later in a boat surrounded by fog. In those set pieces, God goes to any length to trick Jesus into becoming a martyr so that He, God, can widen His realm and become, not only the God of the Jews, but the God of all mankind.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST is the most compassionate, human and profound look at the life of Jesus I have ever encountered, surpassing even Nikos Kazantzakis's THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. I found this book very human and very compassionate and both heartbreaking and healing as well.
I would definitely recommend THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST to anyone who would not be offended by a look at Christ that questions, but not necessarily contradicts, that found in the gospels of the bible.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revisionist life of Christ,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)This book is probably not for the intensely religious, true believer type, for it paints a very radical view of the life of Christ. From negating the Virgin birth to the real reason for the crucifixion, this book tells us the tale of a very confused individual pushed and pulled by a God with His own selfish agenda for the future. It shows a conflicted man whose entire life is an enigma leading to an ending preordained by a higher power. That being said, it is tremendously well written, with moments of high drama and low comedy. The characters are exceedingly well drawn and the story moves along very well to its tragic conclusion. It turns much of the New Testament on its ear, but does show the power and the future glory of Jesus. There may be a sceptic behind the writing, but there is religion also, and a belief in the ineffable power of God. I'm sure the author may disagree quite violently with me, but he has more faith than he is willing to admit. This book did not shake my own faith or belief, for I recognize that it is fiction, and the author's idea of what happened all that long ago in Israel. He is entitled to his opinion, and I to mine, and that's how intellectual debate lives on.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another view of a life we all wonder about...,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)I enjoyed this book because it tells the life of Jesus with an emphasis on the fact that he was a human being, like all of us. like the blatantly sacraligious scenes of Joseph and Mary having sex, or Jesus becoming aroused when he sees a naked woman for the first time. It reveals his human emotions, his fears and doubts. He questions God and his reasons every step of the journey - a message that told me that it is in our nature to doubt, and God or whatever there is wants us to constantly question our existence - or else there is no reason to live.
Saramago's sense of humor and creativity come out in the conversations between Jesus, God, and the Devil. The dialouge seems just perfect, and I wouldn't be surprised if that is exactly what was said.
Full of great twists and drama ... even though we all know the ending, I couldn't put it down.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little Healthy Skepticism,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
Let's get this warning written upfront first...if you are a born again Christian or in any other way easily offended by an unorthodox and even blasphemous portrait of one of the most revered and worshiped figures in human history, skip this book entirely. Saramago is not exactly an atheist, but he is a skeptic, and this is a skeptic's look at the Gospels. Saramago plays fast and loose with the canonical Gospel accounts of the life of Christ to create something very different than the comfortable picture of Christ most of us have grown up with. And to my mind, the questions that Saramago raises in his book are good ones, ones that every sincere person of faith should ask. They are not questions that can break a strong faith, but they are ones that hone it and refine it.
From the first glowing chapter of this book, I was hooked. Saramago begins the work with a poetic description of the traditional icon of Christ's crucifixion. But from that moment, he wanders far from the Gospel accounts. The first half of the book concerns the events of Christ's birth and boyhood. Joseph, by not warning the citizens of Bethlehem of the murder of the innocents, incurs a bloodguilt that he cannot absolve except by his own mistaken death on the cross years later. This death of his earthly father along with the accompanying sense of bloodguilt haunts the young Jesus and sends him off on a journey to find his own true purpose in life. He spends years as a shepherd apprentice with a man named Pastor who ultimately is the Devil. He meets and falls in love with Mary Magdelene, with whom he lives without the benefit of marriage. He discovers his amazing powers healing and miracle working long before he has any idea of how he is to use them. All through this section, familiar passages from the Gospels such as the calling of the disciples, the walking on the water, and the feeding of the five thousand are presented in unfamiliar guises. Finally, in the last chapter, all of the events of the canonical gospels are condensed into a searing climax.
Saramago has a talent for grasping the logical contradictions in Christian faith, though he seems blind to the spiritual depth that lies behind these contradictions. Saramago senses the great paradox between the "all good" God and the need for the atonement of His Son. Saramago's portrait of God is almost a caricature. God is bombastic, greedy for worship and power, and ultimately vain. In many ways, Saramago's version of God resembles the Demiurge of the Gnostics or the Urizen of William Blake....a petty creator god who wants the whole deal for himself. And in Pastor, Saramago creates a devil who's biggest motivator is compassion for the plight of humanity. At times, these characters approach broad comedy. And yet, Saramago is skillful in his handling of language, so that even the most satirical moments have a bittersweet undertone.
Throughout the novel, Saramago's prose is brilliant, approaching poetry. Yet it is simple and once you get past the idiosyncratic punctuation, the lines flow beautifully. For language alone, this novel is a wonderful read. Add to that the wealth of historical detail, vivid characterizations and searching questions and this is a novel that challenges the reader to think hard and respond deeply. Saramago's questions challenge Christians, but to my mind they don't break the faith. In fact, a faith that can't stand up to a little blasphemy is not much of a faith at all.
5.0 out of 5 stars book rating,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)book in good condition,the best of Saramago, he is with God now, enyone who contemplates about HIM shall read it
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh air,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)Your other reviewers don't get it.
Saramago is an atheist lefty who enjoys lambasting the preposterousness of the Jesus story but makes of his reworking of it a love story, fable of tyranny, exploration of the forces bringing a religion into being, and commentary on the barely human existence of the poor around 0 BCE, as well as (and much more so than) a bit of Christianity-knocking. The miracles are of the same stuff as Portugal drifting off to take a tour of the Atlantic in "The Stone Raft" or the whole world going blind in "Blindness", they are lightly-weighted metaphor, candid tricks (I the author can do this, and you can enjoy or hate it, as you please, if you enter this lengthy sentence I promise I will break many other rules but thoroughly entertain you with novel conflations of the great and the small, the dire and the hilarious, so as to challenge your perceptions of great, small, dire, etc).
To find this treatment of Jesus "blasphemous" is funny, we may be thankful that most of civilization finds blasphemy as quaint as Baal and other vicious antique gods, but it is also scary, America the secular state is still very much under attack, and freedom of-and from- religion are hardly assured. The Inquisition and the awful Hibernian royalty of Saramago's "Baltasar and Blimunda" are mocked by the author so that we laugh at the horrendous and ridiculous antics of tyrants and villainous monks that so appall us. In his Gospel "liberated" from Matthew, Mark and the other incriminants, Saramago loves his very fallible Jesus and all the Mary's, mocks and mourns everything from our credulity and slavery to religion to even our notion of what is funny, and has a heck of a good time doing it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Jesus from another perspective,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)This novel has to be one of the best books I have ever read in my life!
Saramago's writting is fantastic! The content of this novel will definetely amaze you. I found myself saying out loud !wooowwwww!!! so many times when i was reading it.
You will definetely enjoy this book. This novel is by far one of the best ones out there.
5 stars to José Saramago.
5.0 out of 5 stars OF GLITTERING DUST, GUILT AND SACRIFICE,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)Ever wondered what Jesus was really like, as a kid, a teenager, a young man? Portuguese writer Saramago did, and by making use of his fertile imagination and his undisputable writing skills, he wrote this book. The first thing to keep in mind while reading the "Gospel" is that this is a NOVEL, a work of fiction. If you are a catholic and/or a believer, be prepared; some readers may be shocked and outraged with some of the stuff they'll find in here. Although Saramago's prose is slow and difficult at times, (A sentence and a comma, another sentence, another comma, an so on), this book is very well worth your time. Bottom line: If you are a grown up, or think like one, you can't go wrong with "The Gospel according to Jesus Christ". Very highly recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars An alternate perspective that magnifies irreverence,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)Saramago deftly embraces historical facts, myth and reality and juggles them in this extraordinarily fictitious account of Jesus Christ. The novel is an in-depth psychological portrait of a savior who possesses a touch of humanity so much more substantial than the Bible claims. Jesus who is at once the Son of God, the beginning and the end, men's destiny, and a young man of the earth is an interweaving of letters, irony, spirituality, irreverence, humanity, and foible.
The novel hinges on the fact that Jesus' father, Joseph of Nazareth, out of cowardice and selfishness of the heart, failed to alert the parents that King Herod had issued a decree to kill boys under the age of 3. He could have spared the lives of 27 children had he spoken up. Joseph felt the scruple of running off to save his own son but had forfeited the lives of others. The guilt he felt was exactly guilt a man may feel without having sinned or committed the actual crime himself. It was the sin of omission.
To assuage his remorse that incessantly plagued him, Joseph, as he truly believed he was acting out of his own accord and obeying God's will, made strenuous effort to beget more and more children to compensate for the 27 lives. When Jesus learned about Joseph's crime, Jesus felt poignant for his father but asserted that his father was to blame for the deaths of innocent children. Joseph's sin was illustrated to full actuality as Jesus envisaged infants dying in perfect innocence and parents who had done nothing wrong. Jesus was embittered and broken at the fact that never was a man more guilty than his own father, who had sinned to save his life.
Joseph's death, which was rather dramatic and undeserving, bore the scruple of his own conscience and arose the question of what awaited him after death. Would it be possible than everything ended with death? What would happen to the life's sorrow and sufferings, especially the sufferings right before the last breath? What about the memory if time is such an undulating surface than can only be accessed by memory, would memory of such suffering linger at least for a short period of time? Saramago has repeatedly made claims to explore the notion of after-death and its correlation to human existence throughout the novel.
Jesus under Saramago's pen is not as perfect, impure, and righteous as the Bible portraits him to be. One sees that the savior succumbs to temptation, to not receiving the cup of death, to choose to remain on earth and not to be crowned with glory. The most provocative and controversial aspect of the book is when Jesus intervened the stoning of an adulteress, which brought him to awareness that he was living in sin with Mary Magdalene, and thus living in defiance to God's will. The sin of adultery (sexual immorality as the Bible claims) brought Jesus into open conflict with the observed law.
The book is not deprived of interesting dialogues in spite of the serious overtones of theology. My favorite is the conversation in which the Devil pleaded with God to admit him into the kingdom. God curtly denied the request asserting than the good God represented would cease to exist without the evil Devil represented. In regard to the meaning of human existence and the pursuit of holiness, Saramago does leave us with an enlightening thought (with such sober dignity) that the soul, in order to be able to boast of a clean and blameless body, has burdened itself with sadness, envy and impurity.
5.0 out of 5 stars Enforce your faith and enjoy great writings,
This review is from: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (Paperback)Yes, after reading it you enforce your faith in God only if you are really a beleaver. I couldn't leave it as soon as I take it because the vision of Jesus with a real human life, falling in love, looking for answers, etc is very interesting.
Most important is to know that we have the right to think in different ways about the life of Christ, not only the way that is presented to us the Bible. Jesus is going to be now and for ever the great man that ever lived in earth and other points of view only gives him more greatness and glory (even though the goal of God is the one presented by Saramago here). Read this book like if you were the one that wrote it and you will be wondered with the result, and the end you will conclude that Jesus has more reasons to be loved.
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The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago (Paperback - Feb. 1 2001)
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