The Last Will & Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo
by Germano Almeida
Translated from the Portuguese by Sheila Faria Glaser
Everyone in Cape Verde knew Senhor da Silva Araújo. Successful entrepeneur, owner of the island’s first automobile, a most serious, upright, and self-made businessman, Senhor da Silva Araújo was the local success story. Born an orphan, he never married, he never splurged—one good suit was good enough for him—and he never wandered from the straight and narrow.
Or so everyone thought.
But when his 387-page Last Will and Testament is read aloud—a marathon task on a hot afternoon which exhausts reader after reader—there is shocking news, and not just for the smug nephew so certain of inheriting all of Senhor da Silva Araújo’s property.
In his will, Senhor da Silva Araújo has left a memoir that is a touching web of elaborate self-deceptions. He desired so ardently to prosper, to be taken seriously, and to join (perhaps, if they would have him) the exclusive Grémio country club. But most of all, he wanted to be a good man. And yet, shady deals, twists of fate, an illegitimate child: such is the lot of poor, self-critical Senhor da Silva Araújo. A bit like Calvino’s Mr. Palomar in his attention to protocol and in his terror of life’s passions; a bit like Svevo’s Zeno (a little pompous, a little old-fashioned, and often hapless), Senhor da Silva Araújo moves along a deliciously blurry line between farce and tragedy: a self-important buffoon becomes fully human, even tragic, figure in the arc of this wonderful novel—translated into Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch Norwegian, and Swedish, and now, at last, English.