The Crime of Father Amaro
by José Maria de Eça de Queirós
Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa
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. Her budding, devout, dewy-lipped daughter Amelia is soon lusted after by the young priest. What ensues is a secret love affair amidst a host of compelling minor characters: Canon Dias, a priest, glutton, and São Joaneira’s lover; Dona Maria da Assunção, a wealthy widow with a roomful of religious relics, agog at any hint of sex; João Eduardo, repressed atheist, free-thinker, and suitor to Amelia. Eça’s incisive critique flies like a shattering mirror, jabbing everything from the hypocrisy of a rich and powerful Church, to the provincialism of Portuguese society of the tinte. Haunting The Crime of Father Amaro is the ghost of a forgotten religion of tolerance, wisdom, and equality. Margaret Jull Costa has rendered an exquisite translation and provides an informative Introduction to a story that truly spans all ages. The Crime of Father Amaro inspired a series of magnificent paintings by the Portuguese artist Paula Rego, one of which graces the cover of this edition. The novel was also made into a controversial film, El Crimen del Padre Amaro, by Mexican director Carlos Carrera in 2002.