The Illustrious House of Ramires (New)

Fiction by José Maria de Eça de Queirós

Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa

The Illustrious House of Ramires, presented here in a sparkling new translation by Margaret Jull Costa, is the favorite novel of many Eça de Queirós aficionados. This late masterpiece, wickedly funny and yet tender, centers on Gonçalo Ramires, heir to a family so aristocratic that it predates the kings of Portugal. Ramires—charming but disastrously effete, idealistic but hopelessly weak—muddles through his pampered life, burdened by a grand ambition. In part to further his political aspirations, he is determined to write a great historical novel based on the heroic deeds of his fierce medieval ancestors.…
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The Yellow Sofa

José Maria Eça de Queirós, the first great modern Portuguese novelist, wrote The Yellow Sofa with, as he said, “no digressions, no rhetoric,” where “everything is interesting and dramatic and quickly narrated.” The story, a terse and seamless spoof of Victorian bourgeois morals, concerns Godofredo Alves, a successful, buoyant businessman who returns home to find his wife “on the yellow damask sofa… leaning in abandon on the shoulder of a man…” The man is none other than Machado, his best friend and business partner.…
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The City and the Mountains

Born in a mansion on the Champs-Elysees, Jacinto is the heir to a vast estate in Portugal which he has never visited. He mixes with the crème de la crème of Paris society, but is monumentally bored. And then he receives a letter from his estate manager saying that they plan to move the bones of his ancestors to the newly renovated chapel–would he like to be there? With great trepidation, he sets off with his best friend, the narrator, on the mammoth train journey through France and Spain to Portugal.…
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The Maias

Set in Lisbon at the close of the nineteenth century, The Maias is both a coming-of-age novel and a passionate romance. Our hero, Carlos Maia, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Portugal, is rich, handsome, generous and intelligent: he means to do something for his country, something useful, something that will make his beloved grandfather proud. However, Carlos is also a bit of a dilettante. He drifts along, becoming a doctor and pottering about in his laboratory, but spends more and more time riding his splendid horses or visiting the theater, having affairs or reading novels.…
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The Crime of Father Amaro

A priest explodes after a fish supper while guests at a neighbor’s birthday party are wildly dancing a polka. So begins José Maria Eça de Queirós’s The Crime of Father Amaro––a sparkling, lucid satire of clerical corruption set in Leira, a small city in Portugal, during the 1870s. Young, virile Father Amaro (whose name means “bitter” in Portuguese) arrives in Leira and is taken in as a lodger by São Joaneira.…
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The Illustrious House of Ramires

“Eça de Queiros (1845-1900) ought to be,” as the London Observer stated, “up there with Balzac, Dickens, and Tolstoy as one of the talismanic names of the nineteenth century.” His superlative penultimate novel, The Illustrious House of Ramires (1900) centers on Gonçalo Ramires, heir to the most noble family of Portugal. Gonçalo, charming but disastrously effete, muddles through his life while writing a historical novel based on the heroic deeds of his ancestors.…
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What does Eça’s Portugal feel like? It is dominated by hot sunny days, white trousers, dust, theater tickets and evening strolls in Sintra, roses in buttonholes and glimpses of gowned women getting in and out of coaches, gorgeous landscapes and trees and flowers, hale farmers and country maids, long conversations, cats and singing birds and orchards, pumpkins drying on a station roof, baked sweet rice, and cheese pastries.
—James Guida, The New York Review of Books
“Elegantly poetic prose… Fans of Vargas Llosa and Saramago will find a kindred spirit in these pages.”
José Maria de Eça de Queirós, where have you been all my life?
—Lorin Stein, The Paris Review
Eça de Queirós ought to be up there with Balzac, Dickens, and Tolstoy as one of the talismanic names of the nineteenth century.
London Observer
A writer of mesmerizing literary power. We should be grateful for such blessings.
—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World
Portugal's greatest novelist.
—Jose Saramago
He is far greater than my own dear master, Flaubert.
His excellent prose glides through real experience and private dream in a manner that is leading on toward the achievements of Proust.
—V.S. Pritchett
The Maias is one of the most impressive European novels of the nineteenth century, fully comparable to the most inspired novels of the great Russian, French, Italian and English masters of prose fiction. A family chronicle of intense historical insight and narrative power, The Maias reveals the decadence of Portugal in its long decline that was to culminate in the Salazar Fascist regime of the twentieth century. More than that, The Maias is a vision also of the general European malaise that eventually brought on the two World Wars and their aftermaths.
—Harold Bloom
A writer of genius.
—Harold Bloom
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