|Author||Eça de Queiroz|
Not an easy one to read or review.
It’s an extremely modern book that recounts the story of the Maias, a wealthy family of the 19th century Lisbon, along three generations, starting with Afonso, noble in looks and spirit and always depicted as such, and ending with his grandson Carlos, the modern irresolute youngster with many talents but too much money and distraction to put it to any use, and as such the character that takes most of the plot. The bulk of the story is the tragic love affair between Carlos and Maria, that turns out to be his sister which he’s never met and was thought dead for most of her life.
The things I feel like acknowledging:
- the fact that Afonso represents the old order, full of static convictions and keeper of the established conventions of what a rich and pious man should behave like, always on the right side of the moral compass, while his son Pedro and the women in his life (both his own wife and especially his son’s) are the ones at fault, victims of the old society’s moral judgments
- the long descriptions of feelings and nature (sometimes the ones reflecting the other)
- the total lack of rush in developing the plot and the luxury of this kind of decisions
- the atmosphere of a long forsaken time in (what feels like) a God-forgotten place in the world
- the struggle of Portugal to give itself a meaning in a Europe where most of the action happens elsewhere, together with the rise and fall of the most interesting personalities
I must admit that it might have been the case that the descriptions felt less engaging because the author uses a vocabulary which far exceeds mine (and from what I can understand, it would sound very unfamiliar to even a native speaker). Not only that but also all the cultural references were totally unknown to me. I felt stranded in many a place in the narration.
All of this appeals less to my today’s self than it would’ve to my 15-years younger version. I become itchy in front of the plots that don’t seem to get to the point (and I regard myself as a highly patient reader). The long description of the life of the rich people and of their loves felt sterile and didn’t really push me to read through, to the point that it took me forever to finish this one.
Sure, the writing is very good and it’s maybe one of the most important books in Portuguese literature, but I just feel it’s worth the time of only the people whose interest in the country and the people is very strong (as is my case). Others might find it too demanding and give it up.