> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 2 January 2018
  • ISBN: 9781784871796
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $22.99

The Elephant's Journey

A delightful historical fable based on a true story about an Indian elephant, who, in obedience to the absurd caprice of a sixteenth-century monarch, travels from Lisbon to Vienna

For two years Solomon the elephant has lived in Lisbon. Now King Dom João III wishes to make him a wedding gift for a Hapsburg archduke in Vienna. The only way for Solomon to get to his new home is to walk. So begins a journey that will take the stalwart elephant across the dusty plains of Castile, over the sea to Genoa and up to northern Italy where, like Hannibal's elephants before him, he must cross the snowy Alps. Based on a true story, Saramago’s tale is an enchanting mix of fact, fable and fantasy.

  • Pub date: 2 January 2018
  • ISBN: 9781784871796
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $22.99

About the Author

José Saramago

José Saramago is one of the most important international writers of the last hundred years. Born in Portugal in 1922, he was in his sixties when he came to prominence as a writer with the publication of Baltasar and Blimunda. A huge body of work followed, translated into more than forty languages, and in 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Saramago died in June 2010.

Also by José Saramago

See all

Praise for The Elephant's Journey

“It is extremely funny. Old Saramago writes with a masterfully light hand, and the humour is tender, a mockery so tempered by patience and pity that the sting is gone though the wit remains vital... a series of contained miracles of absurdity, quiet laughter rising out of a profound, resigned, affectionate wisdom”

Ursula K Le Guin, Guardian

“José Saramango wrote his final book with great panache”

Margaret Reynolds, The Times

“Here is a book as serious as it is charming; amid its ironies runs a sustained pleas for the subversive workings of the imagination: "every elephant contains two elephants, one who learns what he's being taught and another who insists on ignoring it all". Thank goodness for that'”


“A novel of wit, warmth and wonder”

Yann Martel

“Here he has seized the opportunity to turn an unlikely tale of a transalpine hike into something far larger even than its elephantine subject.”

Amanda Hopkinson, Independent

“The novel has a charming fairy tale quality, with its kings and courtiers, it pachyderm protagonist and his mysterious mahout: this is amoung the most charming of Saramago's works”

Michael Kerrigan, Times Literary Supplement

“A playful, intellectual, very European novel, at times if feels reminiscent of Kafka in his lighter moments”

Independent on Sunday

“In laconic prose, Saramago skilfully builds a journey of delicious digressions that set up resonances from Miguel de Cervantes' picaresque chivalries to Czech humorist Jaroslav Hasek's pigeon - fancying soldier Schweik - all delivered with a jocular pedantry that satirises pomp and grand designs'”

Financial Times

“It's an epic ramble that the Nobel Prize-winning author saw as a metaphor for life”


“Saramago enjoys filling out the details with improvisatory skill and imagination”

John Spurling, Sunday Times

“The Elephant's Journey is well worth picking up”

Syndicated review to local papers

Related titles