Photo: Keith Beaty/Getty Images Review: The High Mountains of Portugal 5 min read. There's reward in the mystery, an enduring amazement … He accepts it with gratitude.". Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. If the first part of the book began to make a case for rationalism over religion, here we encounter ghosts, cadavers that are dissected to reveal feathers and flutes, and other half-hearted nods towards mysticism and magic realism. A magical, or perhaps symbolic, chimp features in the second section, set in the office of a pathologist on New Year’s Eve 1938. It is an uncannily accurate description of The High Mountains of Portugal. Verified Purchase. We hope to have this fixed soon. This searching, this improving, is built into the book's prose, reminding us of how subtle and elegant a craftsman Martel is. Yann Martel, The High Mountains of Portugal (Spiegal & Grau, … What it is supposed to symbolise remains entirely unclear, as do the underdeveloped characters of the pathologist and his wife, who appears, helpfully, to deliver a long, static disquisition on Christianity in the works of Agatha Christie (Christie – Christ – geddit?). Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter . The High Mountains of Portugal, Yann Martel, $32. So excited to finally read The High Mountains of Portugal- an … The central motif running through the novel’s three sections is a chimpanzee, and each story touches on the Darwinian notion that “we are risen apes, not fallen angels”. The prose is plagued with portentous but meaningless aphorisms: “Writing is making stock and reading is sipping broth, but only the spoken word is the full-roasted chicken”; “A stamp takes pleasure in being licked and stuck to an envelope, and an envelope takes pleasure in the stick of that stamp”. So excited to finally read The High Mountains of Portugal- an … Thus the consuming anguish of youth – "[Tomas] feels upset in the same way, filled with that same acute sense of dread, aching loneliness, and helplessness. erplexed by this strange, faltering novel, I turned back to. It is a testament to the book's ambition, and Martel's novelistic abilities, that this evolution seeks to better the reader while also denying him or her any comprehensive sense of resolution – it refuses to conflate maturity with certitude, and in a sense insists on ambiguity. By far the most successful part is the third section, in which Peter Tovy, a Canadian senator, meets and falls for Odo, a chimpanzee in an animal research laboratory. So he weeps and he pants, grief in competition with simmering panic" – becomes the peaceful acceptance of age: "Does it bother [Peter] that the ape is essentially unknowable? Its central question: how do you solve the mystery of death? Really crazy ideas, laugh-loud scenes and I can vouch for the authenticity of the scenery in the High Mountains because I'm just back from there. Horrified by slavery, the missionary seems to have abandoned religion in favour of more radical ideas, and Tomas eventually follows suit. The High Mountains of Portugal attains an altitude from which we can see something quietly miraculous.’ Washington Post ‘Martel is in a class by himself in acknowledging the tragic vicissitudes of life while celebrating wildly ridiculous contretemps that bring levity to the mystery of existence.’ STARRED Review… Its final part is written with profound clarity and calm, as though, having moved through sadness with the characters, having tested our ideas alongside them, we have arrived at a place of tranquillity. "THE HIGH MOUNTAINS OF PORTUGAL is a book that you buy, read, fall in love with, and return to time and again. The novel is written … Find helpful customer reviews and review ratings for The High Mountains of Portugal: A Novel at Amazon.com. Martel clearly knows that he writes well about animals, as he includes at least one in every book. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. For while The High Mountains of Portugal is an exuberantly narrative novel, it is even more so a contemplative, philosophical one. For while The High Mountains of Portugal is an exuberantly narrative novel, it is even more so a contemplative, philosophical one. 5.0 out of 5 starsHigh Mountains of Portugal Meet High Expectations. It has no peace. Through these sections, … High Mountains resists the reader at every turn in the most pleasing way possible: it does not seek to offer you absolute truth, though it contains much wisdom; instead, it seeks to evade you, and in doing so deepens your sense of its mysteries, and the mysteries of the world we share with it. Jeremy Simmons reviews Yann Martel's latest, praising the novel's magical realism as a new form of modern mythology. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to, To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. When thought of that way, the metaphysical connections they share become much fuller than the thin tethers that link their plots. It tells the story of three men who are grieving the … The High Mountains of Portugal is published by Canongate (£16.99). Filled with tenderness, humor, and endless surprise, it takes the reader on a road trip through Portugal … Spreading its action over the course of the 20th century, “The High Mountains of Portugal” probes the tender center of grief: Each of its three sections follows the fallout that results … ‘Why would he publish this now?’: Booker prize winner Yann Martel. © Copyright 2020 The Globe and Mail Inc. All rights reserved. I read each one over several times, hoping to glean something from it, before sighing and dutifully pressing on. But sadly, this burst of clarity comes too late. I was struck by this passage, in the “author’s note” at the beginning (the “author” is a character in the book, so the note is presented as part of the story): before “the author” began work on Pi, he tells us, he was trying to write “a novel set in Portugal in 1939”, but he abandoned it, as “there comes a moment when you realise that… an element is missing, that spark that brings to life a real story… your story is emotionally dead, that’s the crux of it.”. Filled with humor, sadness, love and adventure, it’s a … The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel. The High Mountains of Portugal (2016) from the acclaimed author of Life of Pi, Yann Martel is a magical realist story that is divided into three parts rather than numerous chapters. I borrow that metaphor from Martel himself, who plants it early in the book during a clever description of an automobile that just as accurately describes the ways in which he summons the elements of his craft to produce a piece of art greater than the sum of its parts: "I hope you are aware that what you have before your eyes is a highly trained orchestra, and it plays the most lovely symphony. When it comes – and I'm reluctant to reveal the shape it takes – it is terrifying and beautiful. But the menagerie that peppers this story – in addition to the chimp, an Iberian rhinoceros also makes an … More from Rachel Giese: Tension between mother and daughter central to My Name is Lucy Barton City on Fire explores the dark streets of 1970s New … Or, as the pathologist's wife puts it, "murder mysteries are always resolved in the end, the mystery neatly dispelled. But despite the nominally dramatic events of his journey, the writing strains to evoke feeling. Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. Evolution, a theme throughout on several levels, is implied by the section titles – Homeless, Homeward, Home – and indeed each reimagines what came before, piling on further thought and experience, until something like actualization is reached. In the first part, set in 1904, Tomas, a museum curator, crosses Portugal in an early motor car, in search of a mysterious crucifix carved by a missionary in Africa. Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. Even so, The High Mountains of Portugal doesn’t disappoint in its twists and turns, which leave the reader working like a detective to connect all the dots. So, the bare bones of this gleefully bizarre, genuinely thrilling and entirely heartbreaking novel: in its first section, set in 1904, a grieving young man named Tomas takes an epic road trip in search of a religious relic; in the second, set 35 years later, an older man, a pathologist named Eusebio, has a long conversation with his wife about the relationship between the gospels and Agatha Christie novels, and then performs a profound yet surreal autopsy at the request of a stranger; in the third, set 50 years after that, an old man, this time a Canadian senator named Peter, retires to Portugal in the company of a chimpanzee acquaintance. The book's middle is essentially dialectic – a miniature enactment of the conversational exchanges of life by which we sharpen and refine ourselves. The High Mountains of Portugal poses intriguing questions about loss, faith, suffering, and love. It’s such a rich story, and it tugs you slowly forward on an emotional wave that rocks … If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Its central question: how do you solve the mystery of death? The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel is a novel consisting of three novellas that are linked despite covering events widely separated in time. This article was published more than 4 years ago. Reviewed in the United States on June 27, 2016. Over the holidays, I returned home to have a … Fans of his Man Booker Prize-winning novel will recognize familiar themes from that seafaring phenomenon, but the itinerary in this imaginative new book is entirely fresh. The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: The High Mountains of Portugal, by Yann Martel. Lacking the spine and structure of a strong narrative, this novel’s Darwinian ideas are left slopping around in a murky, primordial soup. 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