The Tale of the Unknown Island
  • The Tale of the Unknown Island
  • The Tale of the Unknown Island

The Tale of the Unknown Island

4.1 8
by José Saramago, Peter Sis
     
 

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A man went to knock at the king's door and said, Give me a boat. The king's house had many other doors, but this was the door for petitions. Since the king spent all his time sitting at the door for favors (favors being offered to the king, you understand), whenever he heard someone knocking at the door for petitions, he would pretend not to hear . . ." Why the

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Overview

A man went to knock at the king's door and said, Give me a boat. The king's house had many other doors, but this was the door for petitions. Since the king spent all his time sitting at the door for favors (favors being offered to the king, you understand), whenever he heard someone knocking at the door for petitions, he would pretend not to hear . . ." Why the petitioner required a boat, where he was bound for, and who volunteered to crew for him, the reader will discover in this delightful fable, a philosophic love story worthy of Swift or Voltaire.

Editorial Reviews

Bill Marx
...a perfumed breath, a sweetly tart satire that finds utopia in the head trips of its beholders.
Boston Globe
Justin D. Coffin
...a fable with the resonance of a story that might have been called from our memory...It's a carefully wrought story that feels like our own dream.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, Saramago (History of the Siege of Lisbon) departs from his signature dense, inventive linguistic style and historically encompassing subjects to offer a simple, intriguing fable. This short, illustrated book begins as a fairy tale with a decidedly political inflection: an unnamed man waits by the king's door for petitions, a door the king neglects because he's occupied at the door for favors ("favors being offered to the king, you understand"). The man's tenacity happily coincides with the monarch's fear of a popular revolt, which results in the king begrudgingly granting the man a seaworthy boat with which he can sail to find "the unknown island." A philosophical discussion about whether such an island exists or is findable precedes the king's acquiescence, and the reader understands that the man is a dreamer, with bold imagination and will. The king's cleaning woman also intuits this, and she leaves the palace to join the man in his adventure. The two would-be explorers claim the boat, only to realize they have no provisions or crew. They elude despair with a celebratory meal and a burgeoning romance. Whether the vessel, newly christened The Unknown Island, ever finds its destination remains a mystery, but a crucial and tender suggestion persists: follow your dream and your dream will follow. More cynical readers may interpret the moral as "be careful what you wish for; you might get it." At the book's close, the man tosses in a dream marked with a desperate yearning for the cleaning woman and filled with images of lush flora and fauna thriving in the boat. Saramago tells his deceptively plain tale in simple prose studded with the dialogue of endearingly innocent characters; readers, dreamers and lovers will detect the psychological, romantic and social subtexts. (Nov.) FYI: Harcourt will simultaneously issue the paperback edition of Blindness. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A Nobel prize winner's fable about a man who petitions an indolent king for a boat. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Max Winter
Weighing in at only 51 pages José Saramago's clever, allusive Tale of the Unknown Island may be one of the more spiritually engaging books published this year...this book comes as a bit of a surprise in its disarming brevity and deceptive sweetness.

Time Out New York

Kirkus Reviews
This richly enigmatic short story, published last year by Portugal's reigning Nobel laureate (Blindness, 1998, etc.), is a mischievous and thoughtful satire on ruling elites and bold dreamers, cast in the form of revisionist fairy-tale. One day an unidentified man knocks at the door of a royal castle and demands that its king (of a likewise unspecified country) give him a boat: "To go in search of the unknown island." The king at first protests that nothing unknown exists any longer (according to his royal geographers); but then, worn down by persistent petitioners—and in spite of himself piqued by the stranger's boldness—relents. The cleaning woman, who has overheard all, joins forces with the man (though a crew cannot be assembled), and their hopes of sailing away to this imprecise Xanadu or Shangri-la are resolved only by the man's complex concluding dream, in which this transparent parable of aspiration ("If you don't step outside yourself, you'll never discover who you are") opens into a vision (of their ship as "a forest that sails and bobs upon the waves") that assumes the dimensions of creation myth. This delightfully cryptic fiction incorporates vivid imagery, aphoristic concision, superbly wry dialogue, and subtly layered levels of meaning: it's variously "about" complacent bureaucracies resistant to change, visionaries who are both courageous enough to reach beyond and unable to see the mud below for the stars above, and—just possibly—Christopher Columbus's successful petition for the reluctant Spanish monarchy's support of his great adventure (in this respect, it is perhaps most closely related to Saramago's witty allegory The Stone Raft, 1995).The Swedes knew what they were doing when they honored Saramago. He may be the world's greatest living novelist.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780156013031
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
10/28/2000
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
64
Sales rank:
744,190
Product dimensions:
4.88(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.15(d)

Meet the Author

JOSÉ SARAMAGO (1922–2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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The Tale of the Unknown Island 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I recieved this book as a gift, and I fell in love with it instantly. A very short read, but with a strong message. I have read it many times since first owning it and I have loaned it out to many friends and family. It is a very enjoyalbe read and makes you forget about all the mundane, everyday tasks, and allows you to take a nice break. ENJOY!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Saramago short story where everything is told in detail and where dialogs simply get you involved making the picture in you. Of course, it has very important messages contained. A great book for a gift! (and of course to read).
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a great book. It allows us, as adults, to break from the seriousness drone of everyday life. 'Tale' is sort of children's book for adults. It allows our imagination to take freedom from its cage, and to spread its wings and take flight, even if for just a little while. Something that many adults forget to do.