#9 The Elephant’s Journey – José Saramago


The Elephant’s Journey


José Saramago


Novel, Nobel Prize


Easy. It’s an easy book to read.


Medium. It makes you want to know how the story unfolds but it doesn’t make stay up all night.



Title (Original)

A Viagem do Elefante

Year of Publication



The Elephant Journey - José Saramago

Short Description & Notes

The Elephant’s Journey is the story of an elephant called Solomon and his journey from Lisbon to Vienna. This is a small tale, full of imagination, humor and, as always in Saramago’s books, rich in wisdom and culture. The main theme is friendship and we can testify in several moments the similarity between animal and human being and what can be born of this recognition.

“In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. The elephant’s journey from Lisbon to Vienna was witnessed and remarked upon by scholars, historians, and ordinary people. Out of this material, José Saramago has spun a novel already heralded as a triumph of language, imagination, and humor.

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, our unlikely heroes traverse a continent riven by the Reformation and civil wars. They make their way through the storied cities of northern Italy: Genoa, Piacenza, Mantua, Verona, Venice, and Trento, where the Council of Trent is in session. They brave the Alps and the terrifying Isarco and Brenner Passes; they sail across the Mediterranean Sea and up the Inn River (elephants, it turns out, are natural sailors). At last they make their grand entry into the imperial city. The Elephant’s Journey is a delightful, witty tale of friendship and adventure.” – Goodreads: The Elephant’s Journey

Remarkable Quotes

“Uma parte não pequena desse tempo tinha-a gasto salomão a tomar banhos no tejo, alternando-os com voluptuosas chafurdices na lama, o que, por sua vez, era motivo, segundo a lógica elefantina, para novos e mais prolongados banhos.”

“Entre falar e calar, um elefante sempre preferirá o silêncio, por isso é que lhe cresceu tanto a tromba, além de transportar troncos de árvores e de servir de ascensor para o cornaca, tem a vantagem de representar um obstáculo sério para qualquer descontrolada loquacidade”.

Fun Facts

Based on true events occurred in 1551, when King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian of Austria an elephant called Solomon as a wedding gift.

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